Yahya Sayed Ghazanfar, Clinical Engineering Consultant
An uncomfortable truth about United States health care is that medical harm and needless deaths continue to occur. Some of those are related to improper use of medical equipment, lack of maintenance and malfunction.
Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) departments or in-house BMETs are providing maintenance services for medical equipment in hospitals. However, there are some technical and management gaps and variations that need to be addressed and assessed.
Advantage Biomedical Services has addressed those issues and offers practical solutions to mitigate those challenges and gaps.
Health care cost in the United States is increasing annually while hospital budgets are shrinking. Every HTM manager’s main goal is to find ways to reduce department costs while ensuring patient safety by maintaining medical equipment.
Most health care facilities rely on in-house BMETs for equipment maintenance and reach to OEM and/or third parties for repairs and replacement parts. HTM is regulated by accreditation bodies such as AAMI, TJC, CMS, AAAHC and a few other organizations.
They provide guidelines and standards for patient safety, medical equipment maintenance, calibration and safety inspections, but none are enforced in a systematic manner. Every HTM department has its own system of managing equipment and implementing standards. Variations and lack of access to reliable and cost-effective resources such as service manuals, OEM replacement parts and test instruments are among the obstacles that directly affect quality and cost of biomedical services in health care facilities.
At the national level, there is not one standard for the HTM departments to follow as they juggle between cost, quality and safety.
Factors that affect cost, quality and safety are the lack of equipment inventory management system, cybersecurity solutions, limited access to service manuals, spare parts, qualified temporary BMET labor, and cost-effective specialized test instruments. For instance, every HTM department has its own system of operation and quality management which may or may not meet the TJC minimum requirements, affecting quality and accreditation. Similarly, due to high costs associated with equipment inventory management and cybersecurity software, most HTM departments are left vulnerable to cybersecurity threats and/or lack an effective and efficient inventory management system, which also affects equipment safety and efficiency.
Accessing service manuals and replacement parts are another challenge that affects the cost and quality of HTM departments. Most equipment manufacturers do not release technical information for their equipment, leaving BMETs no choice but to hire an OME to take care of equipment. Third-party and temporary BMETs are good options when biomed departments need extra support, however the learning curve remains a serious challenge for the in-house BMETs to deal with. In some incidents, third-party BMETs become a burden for in-house BMETs to train and become more helpful and productive.
For HTM departments to reduce costs, improve patient safety and experience, and minimize variations, a fundamental change is required to transform the current culture and implement a single standard for all HTM departments to follow. The solution for that is the BMET Umbrella.
The BMET Umbrella is a centralized hub of all the resources that BMEs and BMETs need to function effectively and efficiently in their role as professionals within a hospital environment as well as independently, as third-party organizations. Under the BMET Umbrella, members will have access to an array of resources that they normally pay a much higher price for or can’t afford to procure. By utilizing these resources from a single shared source, members will receive benefits including reducing cost of operations, benchmarking and improved efficiency. In a way, they will operate as one mega, lean and efficient HTM department with multiple independent functional units as shown. The Central BMET supporting multi HTM departments and third-party biomed units.
Under the umbrella, the members will have full access to SOPs, equipment inventory management software, cybersecurity software, PM, calibration, and service report templates and forms. Service manuals, troubleshooting instructions, technical support, replacement parts at discounted prices from approved vendors, and qualified BMET temporary labor are among other resources that members can access.
For the In-House BMETs
Under the umbrella, in-house BMETs will have full access to a centralized cloud-based equipment management and cybersecurity software at a much lower cost compared to purchasing an individual license of their own. Members of the umbrella will have access to their equipment inventory 24/7 just the same as if they had the software installed on their local server or computer. Furthermore, the BMET Umbrella server that hosts the software will be much more secure compared to most in-house servers and computers.
Umbrella membership will eliminate the financial obstacles of purchasing the tools that play an important role in improving equipment safety and minimizing equipment downtime. It will save participating institutions time and money.
Members also will have access to unified SOPs including PM, calibration and repair procedures as well as work-orders and reports. The use of unified SOPs minimizes variations and creates benchmarking.
Access to specialized test instruments, at no cost, when needed, is another benefit of the BMET umbrella. HTM departments sometimes have to purchase or rent specialized test instruments that they may use only once or twice a year. Under the Umbrella, members will share the same instruments whenever needed therefore keeping department expenses low.
Members will also have access to service manuals from an online library 24/7 that they may not currently be able to get from the manufacturers on their own, or they may pay a high fee to purchase them.
Access to a reliable OEM replacement parts source is another challenge that BMETs face. The BMET umbrella will have approved OEM replacement part suppliers that will be verified to meet industry standards and BMET Umbrella requirements.
The BMET Umbrella will have qualified and well-trained third-party BMETs that members may use as temporary labor as needed. Since these BMETs will already be trained in the same system of document control and software as the members, the learning curve, when joining a participating organization, will be much shorter and integration will be much smoother and more efficient.
Members of the Umbrella will have access to TJC, AAMI and CMMS standards. Standards that are concerning HTM and clinical engineering will be short listed and will be available for members online.
The BMET Umbrella will be ISO 9001 certified and will have a quality management system in place for members to benefit from.
For the Third-Party BMETs
Third-party BMETs will receive marketing, lead generation, referrals and sales support. The BMET Umbrella will connect HTM departments who are active members of the BMET Umbrella and in need of services and support with third-party BMET members. Third-party BMET service members will also receive career advice, job placement and referrals.
Under the Umbrella, the third-party members may participate in shared and cost-effective health and fringe benefits available to them. Overall the third-party biomed services members will have lower overhead costs, more business opportunities and higher profit margins.
For the Regulatory Bodies
The BMET Umbrella will help the regulatory bodies implement standards and changes/updates in a more efficient manner in one place rather than reaching health care organizations individually. Monitoring and auditing will also become much easier since all the BMET Umbrella members can be reached in one place. Additionally, the BMET Umbrella central office will be in close contact with regulatory bodies and will have a cooperative and collaborative relationship with them.
Regulatory bodies such as TJC may use the BMET Umbrella as a referral source for reaching potential clients seeking accreditation.
For the Health Care Facilities
Health care facilities will enjoy many benefits from the BMET Umbrella. Overall quality, safety and reliability of medical equipment will be positively impacted.
Health care facilities will be meeting biomed industry standards at a faster pace. The BMET Umbrella will serve as a benchmark for health care facilities. It will boost confidence and provide peace of mind. Furthermore, it will lower HTM department costs through cost sharing and lower equipment downtime via easy access to effective and efficient technology and better trained third-party BMETs.
Also, the BMET Umbrella will provide health care facilities with a single standard document control system that will make billing and financing smoother across the different branches of the organization.
Bringing it All Together
The BMET Umbrella will improve patient experience and safety, lower health care cost, improve health care delivery. It will also make implementation and integration of new medical technology easier.
While it’s often difficult for hospitals and HTM departments to make sure they’re saving every cent possible, joining the BMET Umbrella will help ensure that costs are kept down while quality of service improves. Many of these tools and resources do require initial investments up front, in the form of both time and money, but they will pay off in the long run through increased efficiency and better equipment management. HTM managers must work with hospital executives to adopt the BMET Umbrella program, as described above, in order to help improve their department efficiency, lower their cost of operations and save their facilities time and money in the long run.
Yahya S. Ghazanfar is a clinical engineering consultant and the CEO of Advantage Biomedical Services. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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