HTM professionals cannot do their jobs without the correct tools. Some of the most important tools are the test equipment the biomeds use to test and service medical equipment. TechNation contacted leaders in the test equipment sphere and asked them for tips and what HTM professionals should be aware of as we head into 2017.
The panel of experts participating in the roundtable discussion on test equipment include Pronk Technologies Vice President of Sales and Marketing Greg Alkire, Rigel Medical National Business Development Manager Jack Barrett, BC Group International Inc. Vice President Business Development Mike Clotfelter, Datrend Vice President of Product Development Ron Evans, Radcal President and CEO Curt Harkless, Fluke Biomedical Senior Marketing Manager Shirin Khanna and Netech Corporation Sales and Marketing Manager Wijin Joe Oommen.
Q: What are the most important things to look for when purchasing test equipment?
Alkire: Today’s fast paced HTM market needs test equipment that is portable, easy to use and backed with a multi-year standard warranty to ensure a low cost of ownership. It is important to identify the features needed for the inventory of medical devices to be serviced and to evaluate the test equipment performance specifications. Test equipment companies specify the accuracy and range of their devices in very different ways and may not use the same terminology as the medical device manufacturers. The accuracy of the test equipment needs to be four times (4:1 ratio) more accurate than the medical device’s testing requirements as a general rule. This is critical when adjusting/calibrating medical devices and even more crucial for life support equipment.
Barrett: Functionality. The ability to completely accomplish the manufacturer’s defined PM. Future functionality. With budgets being what they are, that piece of test equipment will be used for a long time. Is the feature set one that can potentially cover future needs? Does it make your life easier and is the test equipment manufacturer easy to work with?
Clotfelter: Price is always important, but you also need to make sure the features and specifications are adequate for your applications. Portability and durability is often very desirable, especially if the equipment will be used for field service. When delivery time is important, consider selecting a supplier that stocks inventory, rather than builds to order, which can extend delivery times to several weeks. Consider selecting suppliers that have active quality systems and are ISO 9001 certified.
Evans: The use of technology integrated into the test equipment to enable the user to work more effectively, both today and in the future. A lot of test equipment is still based on the legacy model of “do a test, write down the results.” Today’s technology allows us to do a lot more, like automated tests and procedures, direct-to-file test reports, results evaluation, remote access, and much more. Look for test equipment that has this type of technology integrated into its design.
Harkless: In X-ray imaging quality assurance, the lifetime of an instrument is critically important and varies greatly. Some providers offer service and support for 10, 20, even 40 years while others terminate service of systems after as little as 5-10 years. Since these instruments have strict calibration and service requirements, the relationship one has with their provider is as important as the instrument itself. Look for a longstanding provider that can be your partner in the industry.
Khanna: In today’s environment, technicians have to do more with the same or less and time is of the essence. The most important things to look for when purchasing equipment is high accuracy, proven reliability, ease of use and electronic documentation. The combination of these will get the job done quickly and efficiently while minimizing risk.
Oommen: There are several important factors to be considered before buying test equipments. First, ensure that the equipment fully meets your organization’s testing requirement standards. Next step to consider is the quality and reliability of the equipment. You also need to factor in that the equipment is compact and portable, easy to operate with all necessary features and is worth the value. Lastly, it is imperative that the manufacturer provides you with excellent after sales support and service after purchase.
Q: What are some of the fundamental test equipment capabilities required for biomeds to be able to do their job?
Alkire: Each biomedical engineer needs to have their own complement of test equipment required to manage their workload. It should be very portable with multi-functional features allowing it to be utilized on a wide range of medical devices. This minimizes the size of the “tool bag” for each biomedical engineer and maximizes the return on the investment of the test equipment.
Barrett: Pretty simple really. Does it do the needed PM tests as specified by the medical device manufacturer?
Clotfelter: Various pieces of test equipment are needed for biomeds to do their job. Electrical safety analyzers, multi-parameter patient simulators, infusion pump analyzers, ventilator analyzers, ESU analyzers, oscilloscopes, as well as DMMs cover many of the basic parameters required for biomed shops to maintain most medical equipment. Additional test equipment is needed if biomeds are going to handle specialty modalities, such as anesthesia service.
Evans: I would suggest that test equipment with a high degree of automation will result in the biggest impact for a biomed. Facilities are looking for large savings in time, costs, and manpower while at the same time fulfilling their accreditation needs. Automation helps achieve these goals.
Harkless: In X-ray diagnostics, the required measurements (dose, dose rate, kV, mA, filtration, pulse count, HVL, and exposure duration) are well defined. What is often overlooked is the ability to rapidly translate the acquired measurements into the final product (often a report). In addition to ensuring that an instrument checks the boxes for required measurements, it is worth considering what happens to those values once they’ve been acquired. Increasingly automated and streamlined methods for acquiring, reporting, and archiving these measurements in a single step are now available.
Khanna: Biomeds (Healthcare Technology Management professionals) today need test equipment designs that make using it very efficient – in other words quick and easy to set up, connect up, select measurement functions, and observe measurements or other test results. Whenever possible, the test instrument should already have or allow to be selected based on International Performance and Safety Standard so that the measurement is automatically assessed/compared to those limits and an objective Pass or Fail test result is stored for later download, or uploaded immediately to the test record and included in the databased device history record of the medical device under test. Furthermore, all aspects of the test procedure provided by the manufacturer of the medical device must have a way of recording/reporting that the prescribed action has been carried out, and what the result is – Pass or Fail or Not Applicable as appropriate.
Oommen: Biomeds, in modern medical practice, are such an integral part of our industry as they are entrusted with the maintenance and calibration of equipment in hospitals and all medical facilities. Hence one fundamental capability is to have an in-depth understanding and knowledge of the testing equipment. It is important that they understand the performance, functions and safety standards of the equipment before purchasing the unit.
Q: What new test equipmenproduct or device are you the most excited about?
Alkire: We are excited about two new product introductions. First, the next-generation SpO2 simulator, OxSim Flex, takes the smallest SpO2 simulator currently on the market and expands its features to provide the user complete control of any simulation for saturation, pulse rate and perfusion level. OxSim Flex also has user-configurable preset simulations and is Masimo rainbow SET compatible. Next, we just introduced the second-generation FlowTrax Infusion Pump Analyzer that adds Electronic Occlusion, Quick-Prime and advanced, easy-to-use maintenance features for even greater speed. This, in combination with DataSnap and HydroBalance, makes FlowTrax the most accurate and complete IV pump analyzer on the market.
Barrett: With Rigel Medical’s product profile, we have always had the product with test automation and internal memory. To me, taking that level of expertise and bringing it into lower price point products with some interesting twists is pretty exciting.
Clotfelter: BC Group recently released our latest Infusion Pump Analyzer, which is our IPA-3400. The IPA is the most compact full-featured, four-channel analyzer on the market. Some of the functions are; Flow Test, PCA/Bolus, Back Pressure Simulation, Occlusion Alarm, Trumpet Curve Analysis, data download, customizable test templates, self-cleaning, auto-sequence capabilities, etc. The IPA-3400 features field swappable modules and only the modules need to be calibrated.
Evans: Datrend Systems is most excited about our recently-introduced new Patient Simulator, the vPad-A1 Multi-Parameter Patient Simulator, which is based on our revolutionary Vision-Pad Technology. It is an all-in-one patient simulation system. vPad-A1 is modular and is comprised of a Multi Parameter Patient Simulator, SpO2 test module, and a Non-Invasive Blood Pressure simulation module which may be used together, independently, or in various combinations. An Android handheld device or vPad tablet provides the user interface.
Harkless: Remarkably, in today’s world the response to any technical challenge has become… “there’s an app for that.” This has become equally true in the field of X-ray diagnostic quality assurance. One of the things I’m most excited about are instruments for which iOS devices such as the Apple iPhone and iPad can serve as a wireless display and control unit. Just download the app to your phone and make your measurements.
Khanna: The new INCU II Radiant Warmer Analyzer is exciting for Fluke Biomedical. Infants in a NICU ward cannot communicate whether they’re too hot or too cold. The INCU II is an all-in-one analyzer that accurately assess the environments in incubators and radiant warmers, ensuring each baby gets a good start to life. The QA-ES III is another product we are excited about. It’s been a trusted tool for biomedical technicians for more than a decade. Fluke Biomedical improved its performance, added wireless functionality, and is ready-out-of-box with all the cables and leads needed for testing. Its lighter frame makes it ideal to carry from test location to test location.
Oommen: It’s an exciting time in biomedical research and development, and as technology advances we continue our pursuit of developing high-quality and innovative biomedical test equipment that is compact, affordable and meets your application for today’s requirement. We continue to play a vital role in helping customers increase their confidence in us by developing newer products as the market requirement changes.
Q: Advances in technology are impacting the test equipment market. What exciting things do you think are possible in the next 3 years?
Alkire: We are seeing a significant evolution in technology now that is creating many opportunities in the medical test equipment market. We believe companies can take advantage of these tools to engineer products with open architecture, enhanced wireless communication capabilities and automation of testing protocols to really advance the effectiveness of test equipment for biomeds.
Barrett: The technical side of what to test is a constant. The medical equipment OEMs defines that. Where I see coming changes is the user interface side. How can the biomed’s daily tasks become easier to accomplish? Additionally test data; the associated traceability and management, the potential impact to AEM programs provide benefit.
Clotfelter: We anticipate continued advancements in the test equipment market in the next few years, mainly in the area of auto-sequence programs. Auto-sequence programs improve efficiency for biomeds and can sometimes include capturing test data. Auto-sequence programs can also reduce labor time for PMs.
Evans: Biomedical engineers are constantly being asked to do more with less. The biggest impacts involve reducing time costs and manpower through the use of automation as much as possible. Automating not only electrical safety tests, but also incorporating inspection reports and performance data into the automation process will greatly improve efficiency. We are excited most about designing scalable equipment to account for future capabilities and ensuring equipment will communicate with devices from different manufacturers, including interoperability between CMMS manufacturers and test equipment manufacturers.
Harkless: I anticipate that test equipment will become more tightly integrated with wireless devices such as phones and tablets. As this integration becomes richer, more streamlined automation will be achieved. Measurements will be made and immediately entered into centralized databases on cloud based storage. This, in turn, will enable deeper trend analysis and more effective condition-based maintenance.
Khanna: One thing that we can count on is the need and the desire for more “smart” technology where our devices can do more for us.
We’ve seen this with calculators, evolving from doing basic math to being able to graph and calculate complex equations, to common household items such as a cellphone, evolving from making calls to controlling your TV and home security alarm. We expect this to continue within the test equipment market. Fluke Biomedical is continuing its work on cutting edge innovation and technological advances that will make things easier for biomeds to perform their jobs effectively and efficiently.
Oommen: Technology is perhaps the greatest agent of change in the modern world. With the development of advanced microcontrollers, newer test equipments can be built smaller and with more improved functions and higher testing capabilities. We will see a rise in the number of compact devices in the years to come.
Q: What else do you think TechNation readers need to know about purchasing test equipment?
Alkire: Investing in test equipment is a long-term decision and it can be difficult to foresee what requirements could change in the years ahead. So it’s important to look for products that provide flexibility to select the features you need today as well as an upgrade path to add features after the initial sale. The product should be designed to be “forward compatible” so it can be upgraded with new features as they are released. This ensures the test equipment can grow with you and provides a maximum return on your investment.
Barrett: The biomeds know their technical needs better than anyone. Budgets are continuously squeezed. Do more with less is the mantra. Just do your research and pick the best match for you and the facility.
Clotfelter: A term that we like to use is future proofing. We have several products that are upgradeable to the next generation product. This includes our state of the art ESU analyzer and our new infusion pump analyzer. Our new infusion pump analyzer can have from 1 to 4 channels. You can purchase it with 1-4 channels and later purchase additional modules and install them in the field for easy expansion.
Evans: It is important to remember that there are options out there. While it may seem safe to buy what you have always bought, you could be missing out on significant functionality by not considering other sources. Also, be careful not to lock yourself into a single vendor by selecting a system that can’t or won’t interface with another company’s products. Look for flexibility and scalability so you can choose what is best for you and expand your test suite accordingly. And, be sure to check the warranty, service availability and service turn around time for the test equipment you are considering.
Harkless: It is important for today’s professionals to consider the broader aspects of how their instruments are used. The days of hand copying numbers into a lab book are fast disappearing. Look for a partner willing to tailor your instrument, software, and service to your individual needs. The time savings and improved user experience are well worth the effort.
Khanna: Purchase equipment that can meet the demands of the future. This could be in terms of the capability of the equipment, the manufacturer’s ability to service the equipment effectively, or the demands of your department. With patient safety first, reliability and accuracy are key. Purchase equipment/technology that has a proven track record for safety and reliability.
Oommen: First, you need to understand the exact needs/requirements of your department/organization. Second, evaluate the equipment and see if it meets your requirements. Ask for a demo and understand the technical operation of the unit. Finally, ensure after sales support from the manufacturer.
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