In a major city like Los Angeles, caring for our veterans is a big job. Named after a Korean War veteran, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center exemplifies that mission.
Up until 2016, the facility was simply known as the Department of Veterans Affairs Long Beach Medical Center. It was renamed for the Holocaust survivor, POW and war hero through congressional legislation.
The medical center serves thousands of veterans in the Greater Los Angeles area and Orange County, where it provides comprehensive health care. Part of the VA Long Beach Healthcare System, the system also includes five community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs ) located in Anaheim, Cabrillo, Santa Ana, Santa Fe Springs and Laguna Hills.
The 421-bed medical center and affiliated facilities would not be able to serve veterans without the services of a well-trained biomedical engineering department.
“The biomedical engineering department at VA Long Beach Healthcare System currently has a total of 12 full-time employees; nine biomedical equipment support specialists (BESS) staff members and two biomedical engineers,” says the department’s Chief Biomedical Engineer Anita Veizaj, M.S.
Veizaj says that the biomedical engineering department falls under Engineering Services.
“The biomedical engineering department services all the inpatient and outpatient clinical areas both on site at the main Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center and at five off site community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs),” Veizaj says.
“The scope of the biomedical engineering department, as part of Healthcare Technology Management, is to provide consultative services for overall medical equipment management, continuous education for clinical staff, management of recalls and safety alerts for medical devices, and to advise clinical and administrative staff on medical equipment including existing and emerging technology, long-term sustainability, compatibility and safety,” she adds.
She says that in fiscal year 2019, the department will be growing by an additional 50 percent.
“Our department will soon consist of 23 staff members. We are also re-structuring our department by adding two new lead Biomedical Equipment Support Specialists, two new Imaging Biomedical Equipment Support Specialists, adding on call service and an evening shift to ensure 24/7 biomedical engineering coverage for our veterans,” Veizaj says.
The team makes the determination of the need for a maintenance contract during the pre-purchase technology assessment phase.
“The service contracts are managed and monitored by our current administrative staff, the Program Support Assistant Janice Rowell. Rowell reviews and tracks periods of performance to ensure that all of the medical equipment contracts are submitted efficiently to prevent any lapse in contract coverage,” Veizaj says.
“The Contracting Officer Representative’s (COR) duties are shared among the biomedical equipment support specialists and the biomedical engineers. The major responsibilities and duties of the COR are to manage the activities of the work conducted by the contractor and overall contract performance,” she adds.
Data collection is achieved through a proprietary system that works in conjunction with other VA health systems.
“VHA has a corporate data warehouse (CDW) that leverages data from every VA Medical Center. The CDW collects data from the individual Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA),” Veizaj says.
She says that engineering service utilizes a homegrown database application within VistA, called Automated Engineering Management System/Medical Equipment Reporting System (AEMS/MERS). The AEMS/MERS database is used for engineering work order processing and electronic medical equipment inventory management.
Leadership and Responsiveness
Beyond the more routine duties of the team is a project to further solidify a secure system. One project the group is involved with for their facility is a VA pilot project for a new cybersecurity system for networked medical devices.
“This project involves the implementation of a system that can re-use our network infrastructure while providing visibility of our current network and moreover reducing cybersecurity risks. Due to the ongoing pilot phase, we cannot disclose any additional information but we are very excited that our facility was selected to be the pilot site,” Veizaj says.
“Our department has facilitated the Spinal Cord Injury center by installing specialized junction boxes which enable the autonome systems connected to patient beds,” she adds.
Veizaj says that adding these junction boxes will allow for the ability to promptly address all technical issues without compromising patients to be relocated from one bed to another.
“A process improvement, we have developed and implemented in our facility, is the standardization of the incoming inspection process for new medical equipment delivered at our facility,” Veizaj says.
“Biomedical engineering leads the initiative of developing this incoming inspection process improvement. This interdepartmental standard works between clinicians, logistics department, IT [and] biomedical engineering,” Veizaj adds.
She says that, overall, engineering service has enabled them to improve customer service while ensuring that the medical devices/systems being used in the facility are inspected thoroughly and accurately by all of the health care services and are in compliance with all local, facility and national standards.
“For many years, such standard work was missing, creating a lot of challenges on the accuracy and prompt inspections of the incoming inspections for new medical devices and systems,” Veizaj says.
Also, the biomedical engineering department is the lead for the VA Desert Pacific Healthcare Network – VA Integrated System Network (VISN) 22 on the accuracy, response and remediation work of hazards recalls and safety alerts that come through the National Center for Patient Safety (NCPS).
“We review the recalls and alerts on the NCPS database on a daily basis, track the recall actions and work and moreover we also work with [the] logistics team to receive weekly reminders on ensuring that our recalls are always completed on time and with 100 percent accuracy,” Veizaj says.
“For over 15 months now, we have kept an overall compliance of 100 percent on the response and completion of all the Reusable Medical Devices (RMD) recalls/alerts actions coming from NCPS,” she adds.
Away from work, the team members are involved in one of the country’s largest biomed associations.
“The staff members of our department are members of the California Medical Instrumentation Association (CMIA), Health Information and Management Systems Society(HIMSS), American College of Clinical Engineering (ACCE), and Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI).”
Veterans and their families in the Greater Los Angeles and Orange County areas can rest assured that their great health care isn’t solely the result of the clinicians they interact with, but also because of the biomedical engineering department professionals.
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