By Robbie Frazier
Underpinning every medical service you provide is the facility’s diagnostic, life-support and therapeutic equipment, which touches every patient who comes to your health system – from a basic IV pump to your state-of-the-art CT scanner. These fine-tuned machines don’t run themselves, which means you want the people responsible for ensuring your health system’s range of medical equipment runs smoothly to aspire to be the best in the business.
Building a nationally recognized HTM program isn’t easy, and you certainly don’t reach that level overnight. Smart investments and forward-thinking are equally important in advancing to that goal. Based on our leadership team’s shared decades of experience as biomeds, imaging service engineers and industry thought leaders, we wanted to share four critical steps to put your HTM program on the path to prominence:
- Empower top talent to do their jobs.
Your providers diagnose and treat patients who are sick or injured, along with offering routine care to keep people healthy. In parallel, we diagnose and fix mission- and revenue-critical equipment, which, in turn, those providers rely on to effectively care for their patients. Akin to those frequent “well-baby” checkups many of us are familiar with for our children, we provide similar annual “technology” physicals, as we schedule medical devices for preventative maintenance to keep them humming.
Just as you expect your providers to have high-quality training and skills, you need your HTM technicians to have our industry’s equivalent level of professional preparation and talent. Biomeds and imaging service engineers must have the specific skills to tend to the range of equipment in your health system, proven problem-solving diligence, and attention to detail to ensure clinical device upkeep aligns with regulatory requirements. Industry certifications, as well as training that underscores their competence in taking care of your most-sophisticated devices (like your high-end equipment, such as imaging or cardiac suites), demonstrate when your people are at the top of their game. And training is never one-and-done; technology is one of the fastest-changing segments in healthcare today, so an effective HTM team is always augmenting their knowledge with new learning opportunities.
You want them to be proactive in their daily functions, and extremely responsive to get to the root of an issue and fix a mission-critical device when it goes down. Root-cause failure analysis is critical. The strongest programs feature HTM professionals who work collaboratively and recognize when they face the toughest challenges, they are stronger together than as individuals. Sometimes you need to come at an issue with different mindsets, and teams that nurture engagement among their peers – as well as individuals in departments across the hospital or health system – are set up to act quickly and successfully.
Through their commitment to patient safety, HTM professionals represent an anchor in your risk management agenda. Their front-line oversight in installing cutting-edge devices and decommissioning obsolete equipment protects your mission, and their active watch for device recall alerts and updates ensures every device operates optimally.
One more thing we recommend you considering. As a company, TKA has pursued external certification, which provides a third-party endorsement of the quality practices and standards found in every corner of our work. We have received our international ISO 9001 certification, and we’re already moving to the next level.
- Establish a well-oiled infrastructure.
Your HTM program – from sanitizing to preventative maintenance and repairing equipment – is the foundation for every clinical service your health system delivers. Developing a program that operates smoothly day to day, with the ability to adapt when an emergency happens, is critical. Open communication with health system leaders and providers is the first step in building strong two-way relationships, and trust deepens as biomeds demonstrate their prowess and support your patient-care mission.
Efficient HTM programs operate seamlessly, through regular rounds in your system and building trusted relationships at every level of your organization. On the day-to-day front, keeping equipment sanitized, repaired and available – which we promise through our READI program – means your providers have confidence in knowing devices are there when needed for a patient. They also need to know they won’t waste time in a life-or-death situation looking for critical equipment, another service we offer to help providers pinpoint exactly where a device is physically located at that second. (Don’t overlook the amazing byproduct when effective HTM programs implement this service: You don’t lose expensive equipment, leading to costly replacements – especially if a device was simply placed in the wrong storage area.)
In tandem with your HTM team, your health system can determine and monitor the metrics you deem most essential to your organization: Equipment uptime, time between failures, response time and preventative maintenance are some of those key measures. And you need to reserve time to regularly review those reports to gauge if your program is operating effectively and efficiently, particularly as you set the bar for national excellence. Of course, the first step is to be viewed as the leader in your community, which is where this matters most.
- Manage medical technology costs efficiently.
Top-tier HTM programs go far beyond serving as your fix-and-repair folks. As a foundation to patient care, they provide stability to your revenue stream. If your devices aren’t running and available, you’re missing a critical funding source from diagnostic tests and treatments, especially from those high-ticket procedures.
Top-notch HTM programs build on standard practices, which seeds their success in managing costs holistically. Keep in mind, many hospitals still augment their in-house or partner HTM program with additional contracts for mission- and revenue-critical devices – including a majority of diagnostic imaging and surgical equipment – with manufacturers who service them, which can complicate your cost tracking. An effective HTM team incorporates those outside expenses into its comprehensive cost tracking, as well as working directly with those vendors, so you have transparency into what you’re spending annually and where the spending is posted.
The caliber of your program also goes a long way in maximizing your equipment investments. Between strategic planning and state-of-the-art skills, your team often can extend the life of your equipment beyond expected end-of-life manufacturer guidelines. Of course, patient safety always comes first, but practical expertise can keep many machines humming in top form.
And when it’s time for the annual capital planning cycle, your HTM team has the unique vantage point for recommending where your limited capital dollars can best be spent. Highly engaged biomed leaders can not only quickly tell you what equipment is nearing its end-of-life or end-of-supportability, but their experience in your patient areas translates into hard-to-measure insights such as which manufacturers’ devices have the best performance records and which devices are overtaxed, meaning you need to buy more to alleviate those burdens.
- Strive for the next level of excellence by staying ahead of industry trends.
Hospital diagnostic, life-support and treatment technology is constantly evolving, particularly among your mission-critical diagnostic imaging and surgical equipment. You can’t take care of tomorrow’s medical equipment with yesterday’s skillsets. Your biomeds and imaging service engineers must keep current with trends in the industry – cybersecurity with patient equipment and the right-to-repair debate are among the latest – and push your program to be ready for any changes.
Keep in mind that while an internal program might be limited to traveling for local training, an external HTM partner often has the resources and access to national training centers, conferences and roles with industry boards, giving them a front-row seat to contemporary topics. They will keep your program up-to-date and share best practices often among multiple locations, helping to elevate each site along the way.
What does success look like at the end of the day?
We regularly praise the heroic efforts providers bring to your hospital and health system every day. Their success, however, relies on the success of your often underappreciated HTM team. After all, a results-driven HTM program is a vital component in your health system’s ability to provide quality care, which begins by having the diagnostic, life-support and therapeutic technology at the ready.
Unfortunately, rarely does an internal clinical engineering program have the shared resources, economies of scale for service support and parts, regulatory compliance expertise, or access to training that an external partner can leverage. Add to that the expertise and breadth an HTM partner can bring to your capital planning to reinforce efficiency in the hospital area that accounts for up to 50% of healthcare cost increases. Don’t discount that an in-house team’s knowledge is often limited to the brands and models your health system current features, leaving gaps in your investment decisions and, perhaps, inpatient care, if you choose a subpar device.
For many of the same reasons, hospitals and health systems often outsource non-patient functions, including food services and security. However, there’s one big difference: Our HTM professionals represent one degree of separation from quality care. Without having sanitized, functioning and available medical equipment, your providers can’t offer the best-in-class treatment expected in today’s modern healthcare marketplace.
You can build a good program in-house, but can you say that good is enough for your health system and patients? TKA can walk you through our comprehensive offerings and develop a program tailored to the specific needs of your organization right now, along with long-range forecasting and capital planning assistance to maximize your dollars and keep you a step ahead going forward – and positioning your health system to feature a nationally recognized HTM program. Download our playbook to get started.
Robbie Frazier is vice president of sales at TKA.