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Reinventing the biomed's equipment testing toolkit

by John W. Mitchell , Senior Correspondent
From the May 2016 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

Biomedical engineers have felt the tectonic plates shifting to value-based care beneath their feet. One aspect of their work that has seen increased scrutiny is equipment testing protocols. Over the last couple of years, CMS and the U.S. Joint Commission have introduced maintenance standards that must be met in order for a facility to remain eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Although such regulations can take years to become implemented, some hospitals believe there’s no time like the present to ensure compliance.

James Schneider, Biomed Technician 3 at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Lawrence, Kansas, told HealthCare Business News that his facility is revamping its entire preventive maintenance (PM), safety and risk evaluation system in order to satisfy the Joint Commission standards. “This is the biggest change for us in the past year,” reports Schneider. “We don’t want to be in a position to say in response to a lawsuit or the Joint Commission that we’re doing something different than what CMS recommended. This is the new standard.”

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In some instances, these standards will reduce the amount of PM work being done at Lawrence Memorial. Schneider offers the example of patient monitors that will require a PM every other year instead of annually, as they currently conduct them. In other cases — such as maintaining electric thermometers — the hospital will replace a simple “break/fix” policy with annual PM in order to remain compliant. Dependable maintenance is crucial to keeping a hospital humming and its patients safe. Ensuring that maintenance is a key responsibility of biomedical engineers.

Fortunately, new devices are being developed to streamline their workflows, reduce redundancies, eliminate human error from their reports and ensure their facilities continue being reimbursed. Some biomedical technicians struggle to convey their value to the nurses and doctors who depend on the equipment they service.

For James Blount, owner of Biomed Plus LLC in Hammond, Louisiana, this lack of understanding can sometimes get in the way of their services and impede the benefits they provide. “It just rocks my world when I point out that the failure could have been avoided with regular yearly preventive maintenance testing — which I offer to schedule, and the doctor says no, just fix it and get it running again,” says Blount. “They also don’t understand that they are required to do the testing to be in compliance with safety regulations.”

For executives and hospital workers, keeping a facility up and running should be a simple matter of scheduling maintenance. For biomedical engineers, however, completing these tasks requires an array of expertise involving pneumatics, electronics, watts and energy output. For Blount and his peers, the demand for adaptable test equipment that can automate and simplify the job has never been higher.
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