Biomeds need test equipment to be able to do their job, but what is the latest in test equipment? TechNation reached out to test equipment manufacturers to find out what they have to offer as well as tips and advice they have for HTM professionals.
The members of the roundtable panel are Pronk Technologies Vice President of Sales and Marketing Greg Alkire, Rigel Medical National Business Development Manager Jack Barrett, Datrend Systems Inc. Vice President of Product Development Ron Evans and BC Group International Inc. Vice President of Sales and Marketing Ken O’Day.
Greg Alkire, Pronk Technologies
Q: What are the most important things to look for when purchasing test equipment?
Alkire: The HTM community is more mobile than ever before, so having test equipment that is portable, easy to use with a high level of reliability are top priorities in deciding what test equipment to purchase. Products that are capable of testing a wide range of medical devices, not just a subset, and provide the flexibility needed for clinical engineers to test according to their procedures and processes are preferred. Durability and warranty are crucial to ensure that cost of ownership will not be high.
Barrett: Positive impact on the clinical engineer’s timesavings, ease of use and reliability while achieving the process needs of the organization.
Evans: Purchase decisions should involve reducing time, costs and manpower through the use of automation as much as possible. Users should also consider maximizing their options by a) choosing scalable equipment to account for future capabilities; b) ensuring equipment will communicate with devices from different manufacturers; and, c) ensuring test devices will communicate with CMMS systems. Also you need to consider implementation and support from the manufacturer.
O’Day: Since budgets are always limited, it is important to get the best value for the dollars you spend. This does not mean you should purchase the cheapest device available. Know what it is you are currently testing and how those needs may change in the future. When possible, purchase a test device that has an upgrade path. This allows you to capitalize on the money you have already invested and puts you in a position of future proofing your investment.
Ken O’Day, BC Group International
Q: What are the fundamental test equipment devices every HTM professional needs?
Alkire: Every technician should have a dedicated set of test equipment to complete the most common tasks such as a multi-meter, electrical safety analyzer, patient simulators and any other device required to test specialized medical devices such as X-ray equipment. Where budget limitations prevent having dedicated sets of test equipment for each technician, test devices that are “share friendly” is a big advantage, such as kits that allow one technician to use an SpO2 simulator while a different technician can use the NIBP simulator.
Barrett: Electrical safety analyzers are the most used without doubt. Patient simulators can be time-shared. Then, performance analyzers such as ESU analyzers, infusion pump analyzers, vent testers, defib analyzers and other specialty testers are typically one per shop unless it is a larger group.
Evans: I don’t think the fundamental needs for test equipment devices has changed radically for quite some time. We all still need safety analyzers, patient simulators, performance testers (oximetry, NIBP, IBP, temperature, ventilators, incubators, infusion pumps, etc.). The changes we are seeing are the way in which some of these devices address the user interface, providing flexibility to meet the need to follow manufacturer’s scheduled test requirements, making user interaction and recording results more efficient, improving the CMMS communication, and allowing integrated automation scheduled testing to improve productivity.
O’Day: This is obviously dependent on the modalities the individual has under their responsibility. For those professionals handling the general day-to-day items, they would need a safety analyzer, DMM, pressure meter, patient simulator and tools. Many of the other test devices can be shared within the department like infusion pump, defibrillator and ESU analyzers. Many facilities have specialists within the department who cover imaging, anesthesia, respiratory, lab and surgery. Having a supplier who can supply all the needs is extremely valuable to the facility.
Jack Barrett, Rigel Medical National
Q: What are some of the newest test equipment products HTM professionals may want to consider purchasing and why?
Alkire: We just introduced a new electrical safety analyzer, Safe-T Sim. It is the smallest automated safety analyzer on the market with some unique features designed to make safety testing far more efficient and affordable. Biomeds can easily program the unit to run only the tests they want and set the test limits according to their procedures. Safe T-Sim completes the entire auto sequence without any user interaction. Bluetooth connectivity and the Safe-T Sim app provide additional features including automatically generating complete test reports that are easily uploaded to a CMMS.
Barrett: Several safety analyzers have recently been introduced. Typically they are small, simple and easy to operate, but with enhanced capabilities such as ability to operate at various line voltages. And, most are below capital thresholds.
Evans: The use of wireless connectivity is probably the biggest change in test equipment recently. Almost everyone uses a smartphone or tablet and would like to see the same type of capabilities in their test equipment. For example, by using tablet/smartphone technology as both the user interface and the wireless communication link. Use of smart technology enhances the user experience and enables smarter testing that is adaptable as future requirements change. It would be worthwhile to consider this type of feature set for any new test equipment purchase.
O’Day: Some test methods have not changed over the years and this permits the HTM professional to continue to use existing inventories of older models of test equipment. It is important to keep up with the new advances in medical equipment and to make sure that the test equipment being used is truly capable of calibrating and performing PMs to the level demanded by the OEM. ESU generators are a prime example of a medical device that has advanced beyond what most ESU analyzers are capable of testing. The OEMs require a high level of accuracy and some are now generating pulsed waveforms that most analyzers cannot even see. Having a device that can grow with the new developments can save the department a great deal of time and money along with insuring the patient’s ultimate safety.
Ron Evans, Datrend Systems Inc.
Q: What are some features test equipment should have?
Alkire: Test equipment features and accuracy specifications should be thoroughly reviewed when making a purchasing decision, to verify that the test equipment not only has the necessary features but also meets the accuracy required by the medical devices being serviced. Some test equipment, such as electrical safety analyzers, should provide a means to capture measurements into an electronic record and/or into a CMMS for facilities requiring records with data and those planning to implement it in the future.
Barrett: With the possible exception of safety analyzers, most are concerned with data capture and traceability. Test reports can be easily attached within CMMS in order to close out work orders. Ease of data capture without additional software is key as many do not want an extra time-consuming step in their process.
Evans: I would suggest that test equipment with a high level of automation will result in the biggest impact. Facilities are looking for large savings in time, costs and manpower. Automation helps achieve these goals. And, as I noted previously, ensure your test devices can communicate with your CMMS system.
O’Day: Connectivity to CMMS software can be a plus. There are so many choices of CMMS software available today, it is important to get test equipment that can interface with as many as possible. Avoid being limited to test equipment that can only communicate with that OEM’s software. Test equipment with an upgrade path is another feature that should be considered. It is very expensive to throw away a piece of test equipment because it can no longer perform to the level needed. Purchasing devices that can be modified or upgraded will provide that flexibility and protect your limited budget.
Q: What else do you think TechNation readers need to know about test equipment going into 2018?
Alkire: New, innovative test products are being introduced for performing preventive maintenance and service on medical equipment increasing ease of use and efficiency. Some examples are improved user interfaces, customizable automation and higher accuracy. These benefits will translate into better service of the medical equipment and reductions in errors.
Barrett: Compare and evaluate to ensure current, and potential future, requirements are adequately addressed.
Evans: Look for a test equipment provider who has the technical knowledge of the test equipment and how it is used. The provider should be responsive to your needs in a timely manner, and be flexible and willing to work with you if a problem arises.
O’Day: Do your homework before you buy. Not everyone in the department needs the test device with all the bells and whistles. Purchase only what you need for each technician. As we like to say at BC Group, “One size does not always fit all.” Look for equipment that has multiple options so that you are not paying for more than you need. If there is an upgrade path for the tester you are purchasing, it will help stretch your dollars. Check on where the test equipment is manufactured and how difficult it will be to have it serviced. Does it need to be sent out of the country if there is a problem or can you contact the OEM easily and locally? Look into the quality program and make sure it meets the highest standards available. Ask to view the certifications the company says they have.
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