Two workers inspect medical scanning equipment

3 Things TKA Promises – and 1 Thing We Ask – for Strong Hospital Partnerships

 

By Jeremy Westkamper

In the Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) industry, we like precision. After all, as biomeds, we’re the people charged with making sure that life-saving equipment is ready when providers need to care for a patient.

Not surprisingly, we believe hospital leaders can look at how they build an effective partnership with their HTM provider as a basic formula. I like to start with three key ingredients they can expect from my team and add in one that we can expect from you. When you bring in a partner like TKA, who aligns with your patient quality goals, you expect to gain greater efficiency and effectiveness with your diagnostic and therapeutic equipment.

As I look back on nearly a decade at my partner hospital – working with everyone from the C-suite to department leaders to doctors and nurses – it’s easy to identify three important things that my TKA team and I commit to that will ensure our shared success:

1. Overcommunicate: You can’t overcommunicate. My biomed team cares for critical equipment that hospital providers use to diagnose and treat patients, so everyone needs to be up-to-date.

The more mission-critical the device, the broader your communication needs to be. A broken IV channel doesn’t require a red flag alert, but you better have a plan for escalating information when an imaging machine goes offline. For example, I recently got an alert for an issue with our CT. In a case like that, as soon as I had information on the root issue, whether a part was needed – and on order with its ETA – as well as when we expected to have the device back in service, I was pushing out updates to hospital and department leaders. Many hospitals might only have one of these big-ticket items, so having it out of service means letting providers know they’ll have to adapt treatment plans or even divert therapy. We aim to minimize disruption to patient care and your bottom line, since having a major diagnostic tool on idle means a pause in revenue as well. 

I’ve invested time to get to know directors and managers across medical units. I know the best channels for reaching key contacts; some like text messages, others want to receive emails. A successful partner relies on knowing the right people to engage on the right issue at the right time. 

Biomeds, by nature, focus on enhancing our technical talents. Our interpersonal skills sometimes take a back seat, but TKA provides tools and resources to help us develop soft skills critical to our overall effectiveness. To me, going around the hospital helps to paint a picture of us as colleagues contributing to positive patient journeys. I’m not just the guy who fixes the machines, where you call, I come make the repair, and then disappear until the next time. Although we’re masters with machines, building those social connections translates into strong collaboration toward shared goals.

2. Participate in the right discussions: Good relationships help us understand how the enterprise works, and where we can best be positioned to share our experiences. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic transitioned many in-person meetings to virtual settings, but that also streamlined communication. Over the years, I’ve been invited to standing meetings where HTM has a prominent agenda slot, so things don’t slip through the cracks due to a hiccup in the information handoff. I’ve stepped out of those where my time is better spent on my core function.

In my early years, I visited key departments and recommended where to invest in new equipment to meet patient quality standards. I’m now asked for my expert opinion when hospital administrators kick off the annual capital budget exercise. Circling back to the recent CT issue, well, that issue becomes more documentation as we pursue buying a new machine, and I’m helping to make the case for it.

3. Be always at the ready: Fundamentally, our job is maintaining and having hospital equipment available for providers. When regulators are on-site to assess compliance, administrators know I’ll be there with up-to-date documentation on any device. We deepen our trust with providers and administrators by delivering the moment when something goes wrong (and we all know any equipment risks breaking down). 

In my ongoing rounds, I’ll collect anecdotal tidbits which often become salient on future service calls. In one example, I learned our imaging machines were rebooting every three days, but the providers hadn’t submitted a service ticket. As I chatted with others on the floor, I learned the night crew was turning the power off. By listening to the staff, I put two and two together to solve the problem.

Our Partners Have a Responsibility Too

Building successful HTM partnerships is a two-way street. As we engage with hospital partners, we ask one thing: Integrate our TKA team into your operations.

Introduce your local biomed team to your hospital’s key players. Tell us your goals down to the department level. Let us know of any past equipment issues so we can facilitate discussions on how to improve things. Understand that we, as service providers, aren’t necessarily included in auto-generated communications. While we appreciate basic things like getting the latest phone directory, don’t leave us out of the loop when a systemwide network outage is planned, as that takes valuable equipment out of commission, since, say, the imaging team can’t transmit scans to another location.

Finally, include us early when planning new initiatives and be open to our ideas. Fortunately, my nearly 10-year tenure means our local leaders know me and respect my opinion. But I need to be part of the discussion in guiding you on how to best spend the requisite equipment funds for a new program. Through my daily experiences and networking with TKA peers across the country, I can advise you on the best brands and models to support your goals, as I have insights into manufacturer performance, response times and more that could put patient care at risk. Remember, I’m here to help you maximize your program, and I want the hospital to have the best therapeutic equipment for our patients.

At TKA, our mission is “Partner Smart,” which we bring to life collaboratively with our hospital clients. Our capabilities and talent can elevate your HTM program to its optimal level, but our success relies on solid integration with our partners. Contact us to learn more about our approach.

Jeremy Westkamper is the local HTM director at Providence St. Joseph Hospital Eureka in Northern California.

 

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