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Q&A with Patrick Flaherty, vice president of operations for BioTronics at UPMC

by Sean Ruck , Contributing Editor
From the November 2018 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

Patrick Flaherty has worked in the healthcare arena edging toward two decades. During our discussion regarding some of the challenges and roadblocks put into place for affordable care, the term “healthcare arena” feels particularly apt.

HCB News: Has BioTronics, the UPMC clinical engineering department, become increasingly integrated with the hospital's IT department?
Patrick Flaherty: From an operational perspective, in our estimation, it does not make optimal sense to have the biomed department directly under IT. That said, I have three directorial reports, one of whom is specifically focused on the IT interface of medical devices and leads an entire section of BioTronics as it relates to device connectivity. So this is the expert I have who deals with wireless network capacity and optimization, and transient and direct connectivity into the UPMC backbone; and as such, he has an interface with several of the CIOs and senior leaders of UMPC’s IT organization. So we are certainly connected operationally, but we are not strategically aligned or increasing that alignment, we think it’s a better plan for BioTronics to be under supply chain.
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HCB News: Do you feel like your department is understaffed or feeling a crunch?
PF: We are lean, but intentionally lean. It’s increasingly difficult to scale and provide a differentiated level of service. As UPMC consolidates, other entities which we are acquiring are, in some circumstances, understaffed. Most organizations do not want to increase staff as a function of acquiring organizations, and UPMC is no different.

HCB News: Do you have trouble obtaining necessary training, codes and manuals from the equipment manufacturers?
PF: The good news for me is that I am large, so that helps tremendously – to be able to go ahead and force the provision of those things in an acceptable fashion. That said, you still can’t get it unless you are sufficiently standardized within modalities. Right now, what you have is, “I’m able to drive significant training and remote diagnostic at an OEM level on a large portion of what I have.” Yet there are still suppliers that make it very difficult to objectify services and support for those types of products.

HCB News: How involved is BioTronics in decisions regarding capital equipment purchases?
PF: Significantly. There are two clinical capital budget processes at UPMC. One is a fleet replacement budget which is a discreet budget. BioTronics was the originator of the fleet process here across UPMC as an enterprise, and it was so successful that we have a dedicated fleet budget every year. For the remainder, which is a routine capital budget, BioTronics is hardwired into the rec approval process. So anything that is included as clinical capital auto-routes to BioTronics before any other approver. So from a systems perspective and from a strategy perspective, we are at the table.
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