Two workers inspect medical scanning equipment

Think Inside the Box to Maximize Resources

 

By Jeff Niederhausen

In most cases, when organizations are challenged to find new opportunities, the rallying cry is generally to “think outside the box.”

But what if you ask your HTM team to “think inside the box” instead? When organizations skip this step, they miss great insights and learnings that can be just as innovative and impactful.

The goal is to take what you already have and improve, which is a critical tactic when managing the tightest budgets. Taking time for an internal brainstorming can unlock untapped capabilities that can improve productivity and your bottom line.

I can think of several examples where those internal analyses have delivered game-changing innovation. Consider the straight razor. For years, companies produced shaving devices with a single tool. Almost a quarter-century ago, Gillette reinvented that product with the twin-blade Trac II, followed by another industry-shifting invention, the Mach 3 – with, you guessed it, a trio of blades. Still looking at its basic core offering, the company has pushed now into five-blade razors, all with a mission to create a product for the smoothest shave possible.

Sometimes, the best solutions are already right in front of us. But we need to retrain our minds to consider how we can maximize the resources we’ve already invested.

Taking a Different Perspective

I’ve been on the accounting side of the HTM business for decades, but I’m not your typical kind of chief financial officer. I don’t look at the world through numbers and cost centers. Rather, I’ve seen the full picture of what makes programs work, both financially and operationally. While accounting might always be in black and white, our industry operates with color gradients that allow us to look for the best answers in changing situations, while always keeping patient safety as our priority.

What does this mean for clinical engineering? By looking at common practices and tools used by your biomeds, you can find several opportunities to “think inside the box.” Here are a few scenarios:

Maintenance Systems
Build an interface that connects your Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) with your accounting software. When those systems stand in silos, your clinical technology team doesn’t have line-of-sight to monitor spend and make solid financial decisions for their customers (your hospital and providers). This approach ensures departmental managers understand how every action comes with a financial impact, and they’re always prepared when the CFO catches them in the elevator and asks how the monthly budget is going. And let’s not overlook the great benefit of an audit trail since all costs are tied back to your patient equipment. When the time comes to decide whether to repair, buy or retire equipment, you have accurate histories on every device right at your fingertips.

Maintenance Agreements
Once again, look to integrate your service agreements – which should always be under the management of your HTM program – with your CMMS. This connects all parts of your HTM operation into one powerful tool for making the best-informed decisions. By linking more capabilities to your CMMS, it becomes more than a database; it becomes a comprehensive resource capable of illustrating the complete financial picture of your HTM program. As a stepping stone to building a contract module in your CMMS, consider creating an Excel worksheet that helps you review contract terms, allowing you to capture the return on investment (ROI) as you weigh whether it makes sense to increase or slowly ramp down service levels.

Budget Uptraining
Tap into your biomeds’ technical thinking and help them develop strategic and financial thinking to apply in making your HTM profitable. While most don’t automatically gravitate to finance, biomeds are proven problem-solvers, so you have an opportunity to tap into that specialty skill set as a means to drive new thinking. As you coach them on the finance front, teach them that – just like at home – they need to live within their means, in this case it’s for the HTM program they’re overseeing. You can find ample professional development resources to help, and this goes a long way in deepening your biomeds’ accountability. Does it work? Certainly. We have one TKA director who sees the budget process as a whole-year exercise. He develops issue files, builds business cases for tech training, and constantly reviews and dissects monthly financial data. When budget time comes, he’s prepared; if there’s a hiccup or variance, he can easily explain why. While that’s a destination for every director, you might start with an Excel budget pack that goes through each account in the HTM profit and loss statement.

Training to Close Service Gaps
This is a simple ROI exercise on whether to train your biomeds to handle service covered by an external contract. When does it make financial sense to eliminate a contract and will the hospital leaders agree to your philosophy and reasoning? Managers need to look at the machines’ life cycle when making a contract decision, as many factors come into play to capture total spend. That might include the volume of that kind of equipment or whether your existing contract covers parts. Determine if that training makes sense in dollars and cents. For example, let’s say a training expense will take four years to recoup, you need to gauge whether that equipment will still be in use at that point. Managers with insight into finance and tools at their fingers can make the smartest choices.

Our bottom line is: don’t handcuff your clinical technology departments. Give them opportunities to rise up and be the heroes that we want and expect them to be. By empowering them with expanded tools, including financial insights, you’ll gain a loyal advocate who will make strategic advances that deliver on your mission for high-quality patient care – at the most efficient cost.

At TKA, our commitment to our partners starts with ensuring safe, clean and available medical equipment, but we also take our responsibility on the financial side as seriously. In working with numerous hospitals, we have walked the razor’s edge on financial margins, and we can step up to the challenge. Download Your Clinical Asset Inventory to understand your current program costs and get started on the path to building a solid HTM program that delivers for every critical stakeholder.

 

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