Members of the FirstHealth of the Carolinas Biomedical Services Department include (front row from left) Keith Gilliam, Matt Dunn, Helen Cheong, Keith Wright, Jared Deal, Nick Batten, (back row from left) Jeremy Spencer, Lewis Beeman, Matt Hunsucker, Greg Curtis and Larry Riley. Not pictured are Brian Lefler, Donna Caviness, Greg Williams, Jason Lucas and Austin McKenzie.
By K. Richard Douglas
One of the premier health care systems in the Southeast is FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a private, not-for-profit health care network headquartered in Pinehurst, North Carolina. It serves patients from 15 counties in the mid-Carolinas.
The system’s medical equipment is managed by its Biomedical Services Department.
The 16-member department includes Director Brian Lefler, MBA, CHTM; Office Coordinator Donna Caviness; Biomedical Supervisor Helen Cheong, CCE, PMP; and Biomedical Systems Analyst Larry Riley, CBET.
The team also includes BMET IIIs Matt Dunn and Matt Hunsucker as well as BMET IIs Keith Gilliam, CBET, Greg Curtis and Jason Lucas, CBET.
BMET Is on the team include Jared Deal, Nick Batten, Austin McKenzie and Keith Wright.
The team also has three imaging engineers in Greg Williams, Jeremy Spencer and Lewis Beeman.
The biomedical services team provides coverage to several hospitals and other facilities. These include FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital – 402-bed hospital, which is the main campus in Pinehurst, North Carolina. The Richmond Campus – a 99-bed community hospital in Rockingham, North Carolina, the Hoke Campus – the system’s newest hospital campus in Raeford, North Carolina and Montgomery Memorial Hospital – a 25-bed critical access hospital in Troy, North Carolina.
In addition to the hospital facilities, the team provides HTM coverage to eight Convenient Care (urgent care) centers as well as more than 85 clinics and health and fitness centers, a regional EMS/critical care transport system and five non-affiliated clients, where they serve as an independent service organization.
“Most biomedical staff report to the supervisor, which is a new position. Helen is also new to our organization. It has been an adjustment with her coming from outside the organization but she brings a new perspective that has been helpful,” Lefler says.
“The supervisor, imaging engineers, biomedical systems analyst and office coordinator report to me,” he adds, highlighting the team’s reporting structure.
Lefler says that all staff members are based at the main campus, except Greg Curtis, who is based at the Richmond campus because it is large enough to require a full-time technician.
“In general, the technicians are split into four teams with assigned areas of responsibility. There is also cross team assistance on the biomed side. This is necessary because there is only one biomed technician on call at any given time – along with one imaging engineer – for the system,” Lefler says.
The group judiciously manages service contracts.
“Biomedical Services has full responsibility for managing and budgeting for service agreements. By pooling risk across the entire system, we’re able to reduce the number and scope of service agreements.
For equipment not serviced in-house, we use a diverse mixture of OEM and ISO contracts and T&M arrangements,” Lefler says.
The department utilizes a CMMS with customer access for work requests.
“There is no requirement to submit work orders online, we accept phone calls directly to the department. We utilize network discovery tools and vulnerability scanners to aid in management of equipment connected to the network,” Lefler says.
He says that they also make use of online customer service surveys, which are conducted periodically.
The group also lends its expertise in capital purchase decisions. Lefler says they take an active role in capital equipment planning.
“Each technician is expected to provide input on recommending equipment replacement. Equipment is often moved around the various facilities to maximize the utilization of the assets,” he says.
Lefler says that the department participates as a member of the capital equipment procurement team along with the finance and supply chain departments. Together, the departments negotiate the purchase of medical technology and assist with value analysis.
Helping Clinicians Across the Spectrum
The biomedical services department has been involved in a number of projects that showcase its diverse skills and capabilities.
One of those projects was an EMR replacement project. The department led the selection of a middleware vendor (Capsule) and planned the various phases for biomedical device integration. It has also been involved in infusion pump evaluation as well as vendor selection and ventilator evaluation and vendor selection.
Lefler says that the team has even been a part of extensive renovation projects that required the house-wide telemetry system to remain in place and operational.
Other projects have included contingency planning for downtime with PACs and the establishment of multiple send-to destinations with as many imaging modalities as possible as well as contingency planning for downtime with imaging equipment.
The department has also been active in the creation of a centralized telemetry war room.
“In order to provide the same standard of care for all telemetry patients across all our hospitals, we worked to establish central monitoring in a single location for all four hospitals. This involved working with IT, our patient monitoring vendor and clinical staff at each facility,” Lefler says.
Another project saw the team’s imaging engineers improve efficiencies for clinicians.
“Most of our fleet of C-arms were not purchased with wireless capabilities. Normal IT security practices require deactivation of unused network connections/wall jacks. In order to allow clinical staff to transmit images to PACs (and not have to spend time searching for an active wall jack), our imaging engineers installed and configured wireless routers on the C-arms and verified,” Lefler says.
The team has also helped during the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the challenge of PPE availability, and brought Sterrad service in-house for cost reduction and increased uptime. The plasma sterilizers have been instrumental in reprocessing N95 masks during Covid-19.
The group has been a valuable asset to other clinical colleagues as well.
“Biomed has worked very closely with the dialysis service line and is very much a partner in patient care. We serve on the Dialysis Quality Team and are very much involved with all issues related to equipment availability. We have worked to get to the bottom of water pressure and quality issues, intermittent/random leaks and have maximized equipment uptime. They are a high-volume, high-need customer and we strive to provide excellent service for them,” Lefler says.
Away from work, members of the group remain active in the HTM community.
Lefler is the outgoing president of the North Carolina Biomedical Association (NCBA).
“All are members of NCBA and attend the annual symposium,” he says.
“Larry and I are members of North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance (NCHICA) that is traditionally made up of IT professionals. Larry is an active member of the NCHICA Biomedical Device Security Task Force,” Lefler adds.
“We try to attend the HTMA-SC annual meeting, which is a one-day event that we have found to be very useful,” Lefler says.
He says that they try to send three staff members to this meeting. The department members also have an AAMI membership.
An experienced and involved biomedical department is a valuable asset to clinical staff and patients alike. The biomed team at FirstHealth of the Carolinas embodies the talent and willingness needed to tackle any project while maintaining and repairing the system’s many assets.
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