By Travis Horstman
Like everyone else working tirelessly in health care settings these days, biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) are on the front lines of COVID-19 patient care. They’re playing a critical, and no doubt unsung, role during this historic challenge as they maintain and repair bypass machines, diagnostic imaging, respirators and other items critical to COVID-19 patient recovery.
Every BMET knows, however, that now is not the time to take their eyes off the everyday, “routine” challenges in their world. As was the case before COVID-19 and it will still be true after the pandemic subsides, BMETs and clinical engineering departments will be challenged with teams that are spread too thin, despite the increasing complexity of the equipment they maintain and the multiple facilities to which they’re assigned.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, health care facilities were tasked with maintaining rigorous, secure systems that ensure their records, databases and other important materials were always up to date with the latest developments. Since CS departments and BMETs have had to adjust to the current needs of the industry, protocols have been updated and modified to meet these demands. I suspect the effects of these changes will be felt in the biomedical field for some time to come, as facilities return to normal and governing bodies shift the priorities for each department.
Based on my experience as a BMET in the military and the private sector, I believe there are three specific areas where those ongoing challenges will be most evident.
Maintaining Cybersecurity Related to Medical Devices
More and more medical devices are wirelessly connected to the internet and to health care facility networks. Connected medical device technology provides tremendous advantages such as increased patient mobility, improved information sharing and enabled centralized station monitoring, but it also comes with the inevitable risk of security breaches.
Manufacturers are proficient at staying one step ahead of state-of-the-art hackers, offering system patches and updates in response to, or even in anticipation of, cybersecurity vulnerabilities. BMETs also do their part by incorporating these updates, monitoring the MDS2 forms from manufacturers and maintaining robust password protocols for connected equipment. All of this activity, of course, must be coordinated with IT departments.
Remaining Focused on Proper Preventive Maintenance
This isn’t a time for shortcuts. Operational verification is important but BMETs can never stop there. No matter the circumstances, maintenance schedules must be maintained to avoid problems down the road and to extend the life of equipment.
One solution, though, is in the emerging tools related to predictive maintenance. This resource utilizes artificial intelligence, equipment sensors and other connected devices to identify potential failures before they occur.
Further, resources like oneSOURCE are essential in maintaining these protocols and providing health care professionals with the necessary tools to properly operate and maintain this advanced equipment while at the same time adhering to the highest of regulatory bodies and compliance guidelines. Intersecting disciplines such as facilities maintenance work conjointly with BMETs to create systems and procedures that help to promote quality patient care and safety.
Maintaining Asset Management Records
Yes, “data in and data out” can be a full-time job for clinical engineering staff, but information management prevents errors and increases efficiencies.
CMMS systems are indispensable for this purpose, and it’s important to choose one that meets the unique needs of each hospital system in order to track:
Patients may take BMETs for granted, even as they notice the incredible life-sustaining and life-enhancing equipment surrounding them. Rest assured, though, that care providers are inherently aware of the critical role BMETs and everyone in clinical engineering play in patient care. They recognize the challenges BMETs confront every day.
Travis Horstman is a biomedical account manager and cybersecurity advisor for oneSOURCE Document Site. Before joining oneSOURCE, Horstman served as a biomedical equipment engineer in the U.S. Air Force.
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