Mobile devices represent a technological game changer in the ways people communicate. Cell phones and tablets have changed and shaped how we access and share information. They have redefined how we conduct our personal and business lives. In the past, our ability to communicate was limited to landlines, answering machines, snail mail, courier services and interoffice memos. Later, communication shifted to fax machines and computer-based email. By removing the need to rely on fixed external devices, mobile phones and tablets have made it possible to have the world at one's fingertips – where ever, whenever and most important, in real time.
The evolution of mobile devices has been fast paced and dynamic. It began in 1994, with the introduction of the first smartphone, the Simon Personal Communicator by BellSouth. At the time, this device was considered revolutionary because of its ability to make and receive calls as well as send faxes and emails. During the past two decades, mobile device technology has become more sophisticated by operating on both touchscreen and keyboard platforms. Mobile devices also offer the following advanced capabilities: photography, video recording, video calling, infrared and Bluetooth, GPS navigation, voice commands, internet browsing, WIFI connectivity, instant messaging, barcode scanning and the ability to serve as a modem. With these advancements, mobile devices have become a necessary part of our personal and business cultures.
As an indication of the growth of the mobile device industry and the population’s adoption of mobile phones and tablets, the Pew Research Center (2017) reported that smartphone ownership among US residents grew from 35% in 2011 to 77% in 2016 while tablet ownership in this population grew from 3% in 2010 to 51% in 2016. As the number of mobile device users continues to grow, the industry also continues to offer an expanding range of sophisticated smartphones and tablets as well as continually upgraded operating systems - making them necessary tools in everyday life.
Health care institutions represent a cluster of complex and dynamic facilities ranging from laboratory centers to nursing homes to emergency and urgent care facilities to full-service hospitals. Healthcare facilities are unique in that they are constantly evolving and integrating new equipment and operational systems. Computerized Maintenance Management Systems are well suited to meet the needs of these and other types of health care facilities as they can be adapted and expanded to meet their changing needs as they grow, expand and become more complex. CMMSs offered by several providers have emerged as the preferred facilities management solution. These systems offer a powerful, cost-effective and efficient solution to the challenges facing healthcare facilities that require timely management of its highly-sophisticated equipment.
One of the most attractive features of CMMSs is its portability. This has been made possible by its cloud-based interface as well as access to it by a broad range of mobile devices utilizing cellular or WIFI services. More recent advances in CMMS technology paired with several advances in mobile device technology enables users to perform all facilities management tasks in real-time and on the go. All functions available on desktop or laptop computers can be conducted on mobile devices.
The following represents a discussion of how mobile devices can be used to improve hospital maintenance:
Every facility requires routine maintenance and checks to ensure that equipment and supply levels are optimal. A CMMS will alert users to schedule these checks and purchases. However, beyond these routine maintenance exercises, emergency situations do arise when equipment may expectantly fail or breakdown. Because patients’ lives and wellbeing depend on properly functioning healthcare facilities, it is imperative that all critical specialized equipment is operating properly. A breakdown in any of these (e.g., backup generators, oxygen lines, intravenous pumps, patient call systems, beds, wheelchairs, respirators, etc.) could threaten the lives of many. Mobile device access to CMMS makes it possible to respond immediately to emergency situations to ensure continued operation and avoid any potential risk to patients.
The CMMS mobile device interface makes it possible to view all work orders, reports, manuals, floor plans and other documents on a phone or tablet in the same way as a computer system can access them. This means there is no need for hard copies that add to the unnecessary clutter and more importantly, may result in inefficient information retention and sharing. With CMMS mobile device access, it is like having a virtual filing cabinet with instant access. Should a hard copy be necessary for any reason, a document can be printed by sending it to a remote printer or via email or text message.
The CMMS mobile device app has the added benefit of plugging into phone or tablet cameras. This is particularly useful when photos of incidents need to be documented and shared with other facility staff and inventory providers. Being able to identify a problem is helpful to the CMMS user as well as to suppliers and personnel responsible for repairs or replacement. When compared to other facilities, health care institutions have a very small margin of error when it comes to its maintenance management. This is mainly because of the strict regulations imposed by the government and industry as well as by the needs of the population it serves. The ability to upload and access photo images add to the efficiency and safety of healthcare facilities operations.
A barcode refers to code that is readable by a machine. It consists of numbers and parallel lines of varying widths. Barcodes are printed on products to identify the product and provide additional details. Barcodes are extremely versatile as they can be used for any necessary data collection. In healthcare facilities, barcodes include pricing or inventory information on items such as equipment parts and medical supplies. Using barcodes reduces inventory levels by having the ability to track inventory precisely. CMMSs utilize barcoding to monitor and track equipment and supplies inventories while ensuring that when an item needs to be ordered or repaired, the exact items will be found. Mobile devices can scan barcodes which then provides instant access to equipment and asset details. Cell phones and tablets have barcode scanning utilities making it possible to upload to a CMMS. Again, this is another reason why mobile devices are an excellent tool in facilities management.
The bar is set high for healthcare facilities when it comes to maintenance management. Beyond maintaining a high standard of appearance, comfort, safety and satisfying those who use the facility with a timely and effective response to problem reports, they must comply with stringent government regulations and performance audits. Proper management of healthcare institutions requires a CMMS that can effectively meet these challenges as well as its ever-changing needs as new technologies emerge. With a CMMS, healthcare facilities can track work orders, quickly generate accurate reports, and instantly determine which of their assets required preventive maintenance using secure cloud-based interfaces. Along with paperless functionality, mobile device accessibility has taken CMMS capabilities to a new level. There is no longer need to be tied to an office based computer. Given the demands of healthcare facilities staff, being able to access relevant information while on the go is not only a benefit but a “must have.” The added feature of mobile device accessibility means even better time management and labor utilization and ultimately, reduced costs and increased profits.
PEW Research Center: Internet & Technology (2017) Mobile Fact Sheet.