Healthcare equipment logistics presents some unique challenges.
By Cindy Juhas
Whether you’re coordinating the launch of a new healthcare facility or the renovation of an existing one, it’s important to keep in mind all of the transportation and logistics challenges that are unique to the industry.
While coordinating a delivery and ensuring on-time departures and arrivals are critical for any project, the stakes are even higher when it comes to healthcare facilities. Hospitals and physician practices can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each day they are not serving patients in the event of a transportation- or logistics-related delay. If patients are neglected as a result, then the situation can become dire. Therefore, it is highly important to focus on these four challenges when serving the healthcare space:
Receiving and Unloading
While hospitals and larger healthcare facilities typically have the necessary equipment to receive a delivery, off-site non-acute facilities and brand new acute facilities often don’t have the necessary tools or personnel. Loading docks may not be available, and palette jacks, forklifts and other tools may not be on-site. They won’t necessarily have specified warehouse personnel to sign for and help unload the equipment either, so this needs to be arranged ahead of time.
Keep in mind that the parking lots of some facilities may be difficult to navigate in large trucks and space for parking can be limited or nonexistent. Storage space can also be a challenge at smaller facilities that simply don’t have the room or at newly constructed sites where there is limited access to the building. Special care needs to be taken during the delivery not to damage the equipment, which can be extremely costly, and any freight damage that does occur needs to be reported so the products can be replaced and the appropriate insurance claims filed.
When healthcare facilities order from multiple vendors, there can be separate deliveries to manage. Some may require specialized equipment and extra staff, while others can be handled by the facility, so it’s important to customize the plan depending on what’s involved in each delivery.
Staging and Assembly
Staging is a key part of ensuring the deliveries happen in the most efficient way possible. It is especially important for new facilities, which typically have a phase-in schedule by floor or department. The freight needs to be separated and sorted so it can be delivered to the appropriate place in the right configuration. Grouping equipment together by delivery phase makes the process of loading the trucks and tracking the equipment for each delivery much simpler.
Pre-assembling the equipment during this staging process is also a critical step that saves time and prevents lost or mismatched parts. It is much easier to track and manage one piece of equipment than several parts that still need to be put together. Healthcare equipment, in particular, needs to be assembled exactly as intended, which can take time and sometimes requires specialized tools. The staging process allows those assembling the equipment to have the time and space to do so accurately and without the chaos and time pressure that comes with putting together equipment on-site. This is especially important for smaller facilities that often don’t have staff that are trained to assemble the equipment themselves.
Putting everything together and organizing it in the appropriate sequence can take weeks or even months depending on the scope of the project, so companies should secure warehouse space and the appropriate labor for staging in advance. This should be accounted for in the budget from the start. If the project is remote, there may need to be several smaller staging facilities in different locations.
Installation and Cleanup
Installation of healthcare equipment can require specialized tools and machines that may not be available on-site. Wall mounts, forklifts and other equipment need to be on-hand. During renovation projects when old equipment is being removed, there needs to be enough dumpsters available. If used items are being donated, these need to be tracked and separated from equipment that is being thrown away.
The last step after installation is to perform biomedical and other safety inspections that allow the equipment to be put into use. Coordinating this ahead of time ensures that the new equipment is operational as soon as possible after delivery.
Logistics and Timing
Keeping equipment deliveries on time is critical to healthcare facility budgets. A 20-doctor clinic, for example, can lose $125,000 in revenue each day it delays opening. Hospitals can lose closer to $400,000 to $500,000 per day. The smaller your client, the harder it becomes for them to absorb a loss.
It’s important to be organized, but also flexible, with your delivery timeline, as construction delays are common and contractors may not have precise estimates for when the building will be ready to receive equipment. For facilities that are already serving patients, it’s important that deliveries cause as little disruption as possible, which often means they need to happen during nights and weekends.
Keep these challenges in mind to ensure your healthcare transportation and logistics project is well-planned and goes as smoothly as possible.
Cindy Juhas is the chief strategy officer of CME, a comprehensive medical equipment and healthcare services company that helps medical facilities nationwide to seamlessly launch, renovate and expand. CME has three branches and 32 service centers spanning the nation and offers an expanded product line of more than 1 million medical products from more than 1,400 manufacturers. Learn more at cmecorp.com.