The medical device field service industry is changing. New challenges seem to be emerging at lightning speed: New U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medical Device Regulation (EU MDR) regulations are being ushered in, baby boomers are retiring, millennials are becoming the new face of field service engineers, medical equipment is growing more complex, and companies are struggling to retain profitability in the face of an increasingly competitive market. The FDA, medical facilities, medical staff and patients are all calling upon service organizations to do more.

The question is how can medical device service organizations achieve compliance, increase profitability, set themselves apart from the competition and provide support for the new generation of engineers, all while ensuring they are achieving maximum efficiency in the field?

Knowledge Management as the One-Stop Source for Service Excellence

Increasingly, field service organizations are turning to knowledge management technology as the answer to their woes. It’s easy to see why: Aberdeen Group found that field service organizations who leverage knowledge management tools outperform their peers in key metrics such as SLA compliance and first-time fix rates. For medical staff and patients, this means shorter equipment downtimes and fewer long wait times or delayed treatments for their patients.

Minimizing fix times and increasing customer satisfaction and retention are not the only benefits from implementing knowledge management. As every medical equipment company knows, there are strict regulations and legal requirements employed by the FDA and the EU MDR that organizations are required to meet. Knowledge management can help organizations meet these strict regulations by ensuring installation and servicing documentation are available at all locations worldwide, and out of date documents are immediately removed to prevent unintended use.

Having to update, optimize and remove outdated information is a herculean task, especially for a medical device organization. However, it’s also extremely important not only to an engineer’s job, but also to maintain compliance and help ensure patient safety. The right knowledge management system will have the capability to be updated frequently so engineers are getting the most current and reliable information available when on site.

Another important benefit that some knowledge management technology provides is auditability. Audits are an essential part of the medical device industry. Companies need to know (and report) who has access to what and when, and their knowledge management system should be able to support them in this. For example, if there’s an important safety notice or update to a service manual, has it been read and accepted by the service tech? If so, is the organization able to provide evidence of this? Creating audit trails and collecting the records in a centralized location will keep everything easily accessible and transparent for review.

The right knowledge management system will have the capability to be updated frequently so engineers are getting the most current and reliable information available when onsite.

Knowledge Loss and an Aging Workforce

In addition, knowledge management can capture the years of experience and expertise that an aging field service technician has built up over their career. In fact, knowledge management is the only solution that will ensure the new generation has access to the knowledge and experiences of their predecessors, making it the most effective training tool an organization can have in its arsenal.

Of course, once that knowledge is captured, you need to make sure it’s accessible to the people that need it most, when they need it most. After all, what good is capturing field service knowledge if an engineer can’t access it onsite?

Connectivity is an issue for any field service engineer, but even more so in the medical device industry. Even if an engineer can manage to get a signal in locations such as hospitals and medical facilities, they often work in areas where they’re required to put their device in flight mode. Because of this, many knowledge solutions fail because they do not operate if they lose connection.

After all, what good is capturing field service knowledge if an engineer can’t access it onsite?

When investing in a knowledge management system, an essential feature is that it is also available offline to ensure that your engineers can find the information they need even when they’re not able to connect to the internet. Having access to accurate, up-to-date technical and parts knowledge at the point of service will exponentially increase first-time fix rates and reduce those costly incorrect parts orders. Think about the positive effect that will have on your organization’s operational costs and profitability.

Knowledge Management: Nice to Have or Need to Have?

So, is knowledge management the magic “silver bullet” for field service excellence? Yes and no. It does come closer than any other tool to being a cure-all for what ails medical device field service organizations.

However, knowledge management is not a one-size-fits-all solution and companies must ensure that they have the right system in place in order to reap the most benefits. For it to truly be the field service “silver bullet,” the knowledge management system must be offline-capable, up-to-date, auditable and a useful tool that technicians will want to use. As the medical device industry continues to evolve and customer expectations rise, knowledge management will be essential to tackling all workforce, competitive and regulatory challenges and delivering on customer and patient expectations.

Learn how AnswersAnywhere has enhanced its integration with ServiceMax to drive efficiency and accuracy for field service organizations.

ABOUT Bo Wandell

Avatar photoBo Wandell is Vice President of AnswersAnywhere. A 30-year veteran of technology companies including successful startups based in Silicon Valley and Seattle, Bo has spent a significant portion of his career focused on creating and selling technologies and services focused on knowledge management methodologies that help corporations differentiate their interactions with customers. Bo is focused on helping AnswersAnywhere customers leverage knowledge management to create an integrated field service experience that is valued by end-users. When not working, Bo enjoys taking advantage of the all the outdoor activities the Pacific Northwest offers including hiking and snowshoeing, crabbing, shrimping, fishing and clamming.