“For more than a century, Erlanger has been central to the lives of generations of Chattanooga families,” according to the Erlanger website. “Erlanger was founded through the generosity of a French nobleman in 1889.”
Today, Erlanger encompasses five campuses – North, East/Women’s East, Bledsoe and the Baroness campus in downtown Chattanooga that includes the campus of Children’s Hospital. The system runs two community health centers, Southside and Dodson Avenue.
The downtown Erlanger campus was re-dedicated in 2002 as the Baroness Campus. Sights are set on the 21st century and a continued commitment to healing, teaching and leading. This commitment includes plans for a $35 million, 90,000 total square foot expansion of Women’s and Children’s services, to include a new Children’s hospital and outpatient clinic.
The Erlanger Clinical Engineering department plays a huge role in the hospital’s success. The CE department has a stellar reputation and continues to strive for excellence amid personnel changes, including changes in leadership positions. The CE staff has easily transitioned along with these changes and continues to provide exemplary service.
The CE department maintains more than 27,000 active medical devices, Clinical Engineering Supervisor David Townson said.
Members of this top-flight HTM department boast various degrees and certifications. The team members working alongside Townson are Kirk Schemerhorn, Imaging Specialist III; Roger Trochelman, Imaging Specialist III; Ron Hart, Imaging Specialist III; Mark Walker, Imaging Specialist II; Paul Wertanen, BMET III; Joe Watson, BMET Specialist; Kenny Lee, BMET III; Hector Acosta, BMET III, CBET; Tom Dwelley, BMET II; Kyle Fitzgerrel, BMET II; Crystal Everett, BMET II; James Roberts, BMET II; Terry Dodson, BMET II; Simon Myers, BMET I; Rob Herrington, BMET I; Gail Maynor, Director of Nursing Informatics and former acting Clinical Engineering Director; Mary Laband, Administrative Assistance; Lori Hansel, Parts and Logistic Support; and David Peterson, CIO. The latest additions to the Erlanger CE team include, Richard Peterson, BMET III; Richard Brannon, BMET II; Bill Canfield, BMET III; and Jim Caporali, Director of Clinical Engineering.
The team works wonders and has recently completed some important projects for Erlanger.
“We are finishing up the installation of GE B-Series bedside monitors in all ICUs and ancillary campuses, including all of the East campus,” Townson explained. “We began replacing the Philips CMS and Intellivue bedsides with the Solar 8000 series in 2008. Now we are replacing the Solar series with the B-Series (B450, B650 & B850). The Solar monitor has been bulletproof, but the B-Series has many advantages that anesthesia preferred.”
Erlanger has a number of needs to match its huge footprint in Tennessee. One important project included addressing the National Patient Safety Goal regarding alarm fatigue and alarm management.
“We installed the Excel Medical Alarm Navigator system and have tracked alarm trends since April 2015,” Townson said. “We have identified opportunities to decrease the number of non-actionable alarms significantly. SPO2-Low alarm was the first such opportunity. We saw that SPO2-Low accounted for 33 percent of total alarms logged. We reduced the Spo2-Low default low limit and saw an immediate improvement.”
The department has also been hands-on during Erlanger’s growth.
“We opened the Sequatchie Valley Emergency Department July 2014,” Townson added. “We opened the 22,000-square-foot Erlanger East Emergency Department in March of 2013.”
Townson was quick to point out that everybody in the CE department stresses patient safety and quality outcomes. They also understand the value that comes with being able to procure cost savings for the health system.
“Whenever possible we seek factory training for our in-house biomeds and imaging techs. Our rapid response times reduce room downtime and increase patient flow,” Townson said when asked about examples of cost savings. “The nursing staff’s work day lengths have decreased as our equipment expertise has increased. Service contracts have declined as our technicians have embraced the ever-changing health care financial challenges and see their worth to the health system and overall value to the institution.”
“We track our savings and make certain that the C-suite sees the resources we provide to the organization and the community as a whole,” he added. “We have moved a large variety of medical devices to an in-house service model. These devices include anesthesia, linear accelerators, dialysis and surgical lasers. We are always challenging ourselves to provide our hospital with high-value services. Administration recognizes this and provides us with the support we need. We have a great group.”
Townson said the team extends its expertise to assist with IT and networking projects.
“Biomed has the responsibility for integrating, maintaining and updating all of Erlanger’s PC-based medical devices, including prototype devices brought in from various vendors,” he explained. “The main responsibility of installing, tracking and maintaining a medical device is changing with the integration of PCs in the medical industry. We not only have a responsibility to get the device tagged or tracked in our maintenance system, but we also have to get the system set up for secure communication.”
“Additionally, software updates, vendor-approved patches as well as hospital-approved virus software, and operating system hot fixes have to be maintained. This requires multiple people – not only in the biomed department but also in the IT department,” he added. “Without this open line of communication, the simple task of software updates becomes impossible.”
The department has faced some challenges, but continues to receive accolades. Clinical Engineering, like Erlanger Health System, provides world-class service that makes a world of difference in East Tennessee.
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