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Clinical engineering in an age of reform

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | May 30, 2013
From the May 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Your question points towards the fact that the gap has narrowed. That’s going to occur whether we like it or not, and whether or not leaders recognize it. The best way for biomed professionals [to succeed]: know who your IT cohort is. Who’s at the kickoff meeting for IT projects? We’ve done it at the grassroots. I know who the IT project managers are. They include me in their planning meetings. When I have a question on how an update might affect the network, I involve them. We just do it almost instinctively.

Patrick Lynch: The main difficulty in bringing these two departments together is one of culture. They operate at the opposite end of the spectrum. HTM has a culture of doing anything that is required to get the job done and enable the clinical user to successfully treat the patient. Biomed is almost always the “go-to” department when users don’t know who else to turn to. Consequently, biomed always has a stellar reputation in the hospital, primarily because of their responsiveness and honest dedication to the mission of the caregiver.

IT, on the other hand, almost always has a poor reputation. The help desk is ineffective, follow-through is rare, and they often use the phrase, “That’s not my job — you need to call XXXX for that.” They seem not to take ownership of their customer’s problems.

To create an effective team that truly serves the needs of the customer (and the hospital), the two individual teams need to learn from each other. Biomed (HTM) can teach about caring for the customer and taking ownership of the customer’s problems. IT can teach about project management and the technical details of the network infrastructure. They need to practice job shadowing to learn to “walk in each other’s shoes”.

Each group brings unique skills and talents to the table, but they must learn respect for one another and learn to draw on those skills for the good of the hospital (and ultimately the patient).

DMBN: Last year, we wrote about how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was requiring hospitals to follow manufacturer-specified PM schedules for “critical equipment,” rather than rely on evidence based, in-house criteria as in the past. What sort of effect has this had so far?

Greg Mika:
Well, that’s not over. That’s still an issue with CMS. It certainly affects us hugely. A lot of data and a lot of years have been put into determining that some of the manufacturers’ recommendations may be overkill. I think manufacturers make their recommendations very robust to make sure they get FDA 510(k) approval. When (the product) comes out on the market, some of those intervals and the full tests may not be as realistic and necessary. It’s time consuming and a lot of it’s dependent on expensive test equipment. Over the years, a lot of it has gotten worked down to where it’s not as many intervals (and) shortened the test procedure. If we have to go back to the full time spans, and all the manufacturers’ recommendations, it could mean adding manpower, and it could mean purchasing more test equipment.

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