I have been asked many times through the years, “How did you go from biomed to finance?” The truth of the matter is, I never was in biomed or had any training in it. I have always been in finance and accounting. I am someone who happened to stumble upon a help wanted ad in the newspaper (remember those?), and I was about to get married and graduate with a degree in accounting. I was offered the job with a small for-profit biomed company. From there, I went to one of the largest in-house programs for one of the largest Catholic health systems in the country to where I am today.
What I know from biomed came from working with many technicians and leaders through the years. Their vast knowledge gave me insight to the unique and interesting world of biomed, clinical engineering, clinical technology or whatever name they like to give it nowadays. So, why did I tell you this?
I wanted to illustrate the importance of taking the time to let people know what it is you do and how it affects not only patient care, but finances for the company or facility you work for.
Many of us in the “powerful” C-suite level do not know what biomed does exactly. Many see it strictly as a cost center on a financial statement that seems to increase more and more every day! We know it “fixes our stuff,” but that is about the extent of it. Many financial people forget the nature of the programs and the decisions we make affect the bottom line. As an example, Doctor Bob wants a new toy he saw at the last trade show because it can do this and that. Let’s buy it to bring in more revenue! We don’t think about support! We don’t think about maintaining the piece of equipment! Service Contract? Uh … what? Hey wait a minute! Why did biomed costs go up! Sound familiar?
Many of us “bean counters” in health care don’t understand what drives biomed costs and how our facility’s purchasing contributes to the cost of the program. We think too simply. That’s where we get into trouble. We get a service contract, flat line expense it and all is good in the world. I know that is not how it works and so do you. It is important for technicians to ensure patient safety is always addressed, and right behind that, take a second to think about the facility’s financials. Of course, much goes into that financial piece, but it is something that should always cross our technicians’ minds, especially when they always want to order strictly OEM.
The more biomeds interact and educate the financial folks in your world, the better understanding we will have of what your world is. It’s quite simple. None of us knew how to talk until someone taught us, either one-on-one or simply listening. It had to be taught. The same rules apply here.
How do you educate us fine financial folks?
Take the time to meet with us. Don’t try to avoid a meeting with my fellow straightlaced bean counters. Be excited to speak with us. The more you talk with us, the more we will start to understand what biomed does, other than “fix the equipment.”
Meet regularly. Meetings can be anywhere from weekly to once a year. It all depends on the dynamics of your facility and how much your financial folks want to be involved. Don’t wait until budget time to do anything! Get out ahead of it. Routine communications go a long way with us.
Market yourselves. What are you doing for me? Be ready to jump on that. Show us how you are saving money. Show us how as a program you are doing. Do you have benchmarks? Throw those out there. Tell me what a cost-to-value ratio is or what other benchmarks you have. Make me believe in you and what your numbers are.
Don’t try to fool us. We are smarter than we look most the time. If you come to us with “smoke and mirrors” on savings, stewardships or whatever, we will call you on it. That’s OK! Be prepared to defend your numbers and why you are doing something to drive savings. You should always have a business plan and a return on investment (ROI) on any plan to drive savings. Make sure you have your ducks in a row. If you do and prove what you are doing benefits the facility, saves money and protects your patients, you have won us over! In the process, you just showed us you are more than a technician. You see the big picture and you educated us in the whole process!
Communicate. This is the biggest piece we like to have in our world. We don’t like surprises! When big blimps materialize on financials we stress out and our heads explode. You don’t want that frantic call from finance wondering what you did to them now! If you know things are going to happen, let us know ahead of time. We might be able to do something financially to ease the burden on the financials. A good example of this is the sudden need to purchase expensive tubes for the radiology equipment. If something happens, let us know what we are going to be seeing so we are prepared.
These might be little things, but letting us know what is going on gives us insights to your world and why things happen.
I do hope some of this makes sense and helps with communicating with us dreaded finance folks. You might think we are out to get you (sometimes maybe!), but most of the time we are on the same team as you. We only want wants best for our patients and finances.
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