TechNation requested submissions from leading innovators in the HTM community for this article on test equipment. Participants shared their insights regarding a variety of topics from a tool every biomed should have to additional information they think HTM professionals should know going into 2021.
Participants include Pronk Technologies Vice President of Sales and Marketing Greg Alkire; Fluke Health Solutions, Fluke Biomedical and RaySafe Regional Sales Manager Jayne Canty; Radcal Corporation President and CEO Curt Harkless; Datrend Systems Inc. Director of Business Development Owen Liu; BC Group International Inc. Vice President Sales and Marketing Ken O’Day; and Calyx Metrology Lab Inc. Head Coach John Walls.
Alkire: The first device every HTM engineer should have is a portable electrical safety analyzer. It is the basis for everything that is done in health care to ensure a medical device is safe to be used on patients. Having an understanding of this critical piece of test equipment and how it can impact patient safety is an important foundation to establish first when beginning a great career in health care.
Canty: Of course, a laptop is an invaluable and essential tool for countless reasons. The ability to communicate, interface with software, store service manuals – the list goes on. Add our new OneQA workflow automation software that enables success by improving productivity, minimizing repetitive tasks, eliminating paperwork and improving processes. All resulting in time savings while improving the safety of medical equipment with a growing library of test procedures, interfacing with most CMMS systems.
Harkless: For X-ray quality assurance I would recommend a versatile and extensible measurement system. In general, these systems offer an economical solution for starting physicists and engineers. Some of these systems, such as the Accu-Gold Touch, also support a broad array of additional sensors and accessories. What begins as a basic system today is readily extensible to accomplish any future requirement that may arise.
Liu: If you are a biomed, a high-quality electrical safety analyzer will become your cornerstone. To ensure patient and medical staff safety, you are responsible for carrying out electrical safety testing, PM checklist inspections and performance testing on medical devices such as defibs and ESUs. A good safety analyzer will offer automated testing, a better analyzer should allow HTM professionals to go through PM checklists and maybe even control other test equipment at the same time, and the best ones will download workorders from your CMMS system and upload completed test reports.
O’Day: A safety analyzer seems to be the most widely used piece of test equipment since every electronic device entering a facility, or in routine use, requires an electrical leakage test. Not every technician needs the model with all the bells and whistles and having a full range to choose from provides the opportunity to save money.
WALLS: Impressive test equipment contributes to confidence. Hospital staff, especially nurses, will likely recognize the HTM as the “new face.” Early on, inexperienced HTMs must establish themselves to the nursing staff as confident troubleshooters and problem solvers. Likely, ECG lead related issues will be an early troubleshooting challenge. A solid patient simulator with respiration, perhaps a BC Biomedical PS-2220, would serve a young HTM well.
Alkire: It has been a very challenging year and we want to thank every HTM professional for all they do to ensure patients are cared for and safe. More than ever they have earned and desperately need tools equipped with advanced technology that provide maximum portability so their tools are always at their fingertips when performing service. Their wish list should include solutions that provide immediate access to their test procedures, connect those procedures to their test equipment to run tests automatically while seamlessly capturing detailed electronic reports as they work. The reports should be easily saved/printed and or exported to a CMMS/database. These solutions will greatly reduce the administrative overhead they face to not only know how best to service the medical device, but also how to document the work performed in the most efficient and accurate way possible.
Canty: The VT900A Gas Flow Analyzer and Vapor Anesthesia Tester make up a powerful test duo designed to efficiently and reliably perform a full anesthesia machine preventative maintenance from ventilators to vaporizers. Streamline your test procedures, improve efficiency with auto-detection of anesthetic agents and color-matched gas identification and reduce time – all with the use of an innovative 7-inch color touch screen. Ensure patient safety with automatic detection and measurement of CO2, N2O and five commonly used anesthetic agents. And it’s just not ventilators and vaporizers … use it for CO2 and endoscopic insufflators, common gas wall outlets, suction devices, pressure gauges and anesthesia machines, especially when the accuracy of low volume and pressure is crucial.
Harkless: For the holidays, it’s always nice to target those things that make your life easier. Recent advances in X-ray QA include thoughtful integrations of the measurement system with automated reporting software. Many of these solutions are easily adapted for even the most complex QA procedures. In this way, when your measurements are done – your report is done.
Liu: Many businesses have seen budget constraints because of COVID-19. For these departments we recommend looking for products that are modular or have upgrade options for the future. For hospitals with year-end budgets available, I would strongly recommend a ventilator tester. There has been a huge spike in ventilator purchasing in the past few months, and in 2021 all of these will need to be PM checked. Getting an intuitive and full-featured analyzer now will allow you time to train and properly maintain your new assets when they are due.
O’Day: Since the HTM professionals’ roles vary so much within an organization, it is difficult to identify one item a professional might want on the holiday wish list. There is a great deal of specialization these days. I would think the test equipment on the wish list would have some key features to rise to that level. It should be able to perform the testing needed with accurate results that are gathered as easily as possible. This would be true of HTM professionals specializing in any of the many subspecialties (anesthesia, imaging, OR, ventilators, etc.).
WALLS: Temperature measurements are one of the most common measurements made in health care. Most HTMs habitually use Type K thermocouple probes and meters. However, Type T probes are considerably more accurate. I suggest including a shiny new Fluke 52-II and Type T Thermocouple Sensor on your holiday wish list. Fluke 80AK-A Thermocouple Adapter. Fluke Digital multimeters and the 80TK Thermocouple module are traditional HTM favorites. But, using the Fluke 80AK-A eliminates the inaccuracy inherent in the 80-TK module. Plus, it doesn’t require calibration! So, retire the 80TK Module and reduce the cost of your calibration! Happy Holidays!
Alkire: A manufacturer should have a serious commitment to their customers with the reliability of the test equipment they produce. This can be easily identified in the warranty that is offered at the time of sale – some companies offer only a one-year warranty whereas others like Pronk offer a 4-year parts and labor warranty. It is a quick and clear indication of how much time was spent during the design phase to ensure the product will have excellent reliability and dependability to keep up with today’s fast-paced service demands.
Canty: Four things immediately come to mind – quality, compliance, durability and versatility. Today, biomedical professionals, field service and other medical personnel must meet increasing regulatory guidelines, higher quality standards and rapid technological growth while performing their work faster and more efficiently than ever. Fluke Biomedical is a world leader in the manufacture of a full portfolio of biomedical test and simulation products, X-ray test and measurement instruments, radiation safety and diagnostic imaging with a reputation of quality and best in class products, service, repair and calibration.
Harkless: Naturally, the quality of a product and its ability to accomplish its mission needs to be a major priority. But, the ongoing need for service and calibration of test equipment make your relationship with the manufacturer equally critical. I recommend selecting a partner that shares your values and understands your objectives. Having a reliable and prompt source for regular maintenance can make all the difference.
Liu: The testing requirements and standards do not change very often in our industry, that means some test equipment can get used for decades. When you are looking for replacements, it is important to find solutions that offer intuitive automation, integration with third-party products, a path for future upgrades, and most importantly innovative ways to improve efficiency, especially with an ever increasing number of assets but a limited number of professionals to maintain their equipment properly. IoT and smart devices are here to stay, so it will be very interesting to see how test equipment manufacturers will take advantage of these technologies.
O’Day: Is the manufacturer using internationally accepted quality programs in their production and service side of the operation? Look for a company with ISO 9001, 17025, 13485 and regularly inspected by the FDA. A proven track record of producing and maintaining quality test devices. Does the manufacturer support the items they produce for an extended period? Look to see if there is an upgrade path for the devices so that when new features are needed the end user will not have to obsolete their current model and purchase the newest device on the market.
WALLS: Reliable, clearly stated specifications. There’s a significant difference between a specification of +/- 1% of Range vs +/- 1% of Reading. It’s amazing how many manufacturers fail to distinguish between the Range/Reading specification. Of course, OEM certification fees can be outrageous. If updated software calibration dates are important, consider the long-term ramifications of purchasing test equipment from a manufacture who refuses to allow ISO access to calibration date software.
Alkire: We are excited about our new product called Mobilize. It adds wireless communication capabilities to our safety analyzer, patient simulators SimCube and OxSim Flex and our FlowTrax IV pump analyzer. Mobilize will wirelessly connect Pronk products to a users’ smart device to provide complete and single-point control of several test devices dramatically reducing overall test time. Users can automate their testing, run CMMS-driven procedures or create their own procedures on our Mobilize App while they work and automatically generate a complete electronic report. This provides HTM professionals the most portable test equipment integrated to their test procedures/protocols, with the ability to execute the testing quickly and eliminate the need to manually document and track their work. Mobilize also includes a range of CMMS/database integration capabilities as well.
Canty: The RaySafe X2 Volt Sensor is the newest addition to the user friendly Raysafe X2 family of diagnostic X-ray test tools. It is used for measuring voltage from the output voltage test points on an X-ray machine with the corresponding voltage measurement in kV or mA/mAs. It can also be used for connecting other measurement devices providing a voltage signal between ±16V such as a mAs clamp for non-invasive mAs measurements. This new sensor adds to the versatility, ease of use and benefits of performing QA with the Raysafe X2 System.
Harkless: Quality assurance requirements continuously evolve to accommodate new technologies and modalities. In X-ray QA, Dose Area Product measurement is seeing much expanded use in fluoroscopic and dental applications. Radcal has recently introduced DAP solutions that make these new measurements quick and easy. These solutions are straightforward extension of Radcal’s Accu-Gold product line.
Liu: I am happy to announce the release of vPad-CO2, our Breath Simulator for functional testing of capnometers or patient monitors with ETCO2 modules. Being part of our Vision-Pad platform, vPad-CO2 will come with all the benefits of an Android driven device such as a natural user interface, cloud integration, user customized automation and much more. This product will come in two flavors, with or without a 10-inch LCD, and it can operate as a standalone device or be integrated as part of vPad-A1, our all-in-one patient simulator!
O’Day: BC Group manufactures a complete family of test equipment for just about every modality in addition to 75 other product lines. It is difficult to pick just one to talk about. Our ESU-2400 is a prime example of BC Group’s commitment to produce the best possible test devices on the market and then provide an upgrade path for the end user to always have the latest features available. The ESU generators have been evolving so rapidly in the past 10-15 years that the demands on test equipment is constantly changing. As a result, BC Group introduced our ESU-2400 10 years ago as the most powerful analyzer on the market. In the meantime, the ESU OEMs have introduced new generators that require faster processing and features that were not originally offered on the first ESU-2400 or any competitors products. The ESU-2400 user with serial number 1 has the option to upgrade their original 10-year-old device to the latest ESU-2400H model. No other manufacturer of test equipment provides that pathway for their equipment.
WALLS: Consistently, HTMs have told us they want to avoid the stresses associated with sending their mission critical test equipment away for its annual calibration. With this understanding, Calyx has increased our onsite certification capabilities to include ventilator analyzers, dialysis related instrumentation, infusion device analyzers and IR thermometers. Calyx strives to make the experience “smooth” from the proposal stage to when HTMs drop the certificate of calibration into their CMMS.
Alkire: We believe providing test equipment solutions that are accessible in the palm of the hands of our customers, easy-to-use portable test equipment, using their smart device to connect these technologies together, will increase the accuracy and efficiency of the service performed while reducing administrative overhead. Providing this benefit to biomedical engineers is the goal we are very much focused on moving forward.
Canty: Paperless test automation software is essential to saving time, reducing steps and standardization in the health care industry. It is also key to reducing human error and minimizing the chance of infection by eliminating document pass through between departments, individuals and surfaces. Laptops can be wiped down and disinfected as movement throughout a facility is made during the PM process. In addition, training and support are essential components for both software and product. It is available through our Advantage Training Program with an extensive library of modules and registration and use is no charge. When making a decision among the test tool options available to you, we recommend that you take into account the savings in FTE hours by automating your work flow and the reduction of errors that paperless automation software provides along with the initial cost of the test device you will purchase.
Harkless: The emergence of COVID has shown the world how rapidly the demands and challenges in health care can change. I think it’s important that readers prioritize versatility and extensibility when choosing test equipment. Measurements and capabilities that seemed complete a year ago may easily become inadequate in the face of an ever-changing environment.
Liu: With few exceptions, COVID has impacted everyone around the world and created a lot of new challenges. Not only have we seen a transition to remote product demonstrations and business meetings, we have seen a huge jump with remote in-service-training as well. However 2021 and the future shapes out to be, the online business is here to stay. This is where smart devices with screen sharing capabilities will really help HTM professionals and manufacturers alike.
O’Day: I am sure everyone will be happy to have 2020 behind them and in the history books. 2021 will have many of the same challenges as the world gets their arms around this pandemic. HTM professionals will continue to face some of the carry over from 2020. Hospital income has been adversely affected by the decrease in elective procedures and the high cost of battling COVID-19. As a result, hospital and HTM budgets will probably be smaller. HTM departments will need to make sure they get the best value for the dollars they spend. Hopefully, with BC Groups wide range of products and price levels, we can help stretch those dollars as we have been doing for the past 32 years.
WALLS: Many of the HTM professionals’ most popular, even iconic, test instruments are approaching end of life and no longer supported by the OEM. Tap into the expertise of your current calibration provider to assist with selecting replacement instrumentation. They’ve seen it all, can help determine required accuracies (particularly related to temperature and pressure instruments), make recommendations and connect you to experienced, current users. Protect your test equipment from the hazards of travel. The clinic approach to health care delivery requires HTMs to go mobile. Field service operations are disrupted when test equipment is broken and out of service. Invest in quality test equipment cases. Perhaps more importantly, customers may not comment on your impressive, brand-new test equipment, but they may wonder if your dirty, broken, taped up test equipment is a reflection of the quality of service they’re receiving.
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