AAMI and ASHE to Collaborate on Response to CMS Directive

The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) is teaming up with the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) to explore potential solutions to a federal directive on maintenance schedules for medical equipment that has much of the healthcare technology management community up in arms.

AAMI and ASHE, a division of the American Hospital Association dedicated to facilities engineering, will bring stakeholders together to facilitate development of an evidence-based response to a memo from the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The two groups will also partner with George Mills, head of the The Joint Commission's Engineering Department, to request a meeting with top CMS officials to discuss the issue.

"We want to have an exploratory discussion with CMS about the implications of the new clarification," says John Collins, ASHE's director of engineering and compliance.

The agency issued a memo on Dec. 2, 2011, to state survey directors on upkeep of medical devices. It says hospitals cannot stray from the manufacturer's preventive maintenance (PM) recommendations for critical equipment. Adjustments to the PM interval for noncritical equipment are allowed provided they are "based upon a systematic, evidence-based assessment" that confirms the change won't undermine patient and staff safety, and only if the facility has enough maintenance history on the device.

The memo was criticized by the healthcare technology management community, with many saying it will lead to more work hours and costs without additional benefit to the patient. AAMI president Mary Logan says the collaboration can help convince CMS to consider alternatives.

"Although difficult to swallow, what CMS is doing is consistent with what is happening throughout healthcare: They are using an evidence-based approach to its requirements," she says. "In order to be successful, the profession ultimately will need to use an evidence-based approach to show CMS a better way. In short, CMS is looking for a standard."