As we close out our “View on Value” series of articles it provides us the opportunity to review some of our past discussion points and how they will help define HTM departments in the near future as we are often asked, “What will HTM look like in five years?”
To better predict what the future may hold it is helpful to look at the past. Many of you have witnessed the evolution of our field from clinical engineering to healthcare technology management. Throughout this evolution, HTM has grown from a field responsible for bed repairs and pin tension testing to a highly trained and highly valued operational service responsible for some of the most complex technology ever developed. The foreseeable future will require HTM to continue to evolve its abilities to service increasingly complicated and interoperable equipment within a materially more challenging economic environment.
Integrated Delivery Networks and Integrated Delivery and Finance Systems will continue to create more economic options through consolidation efforts across the country. Though the recent pandemic has temporarily slowed that trend expect to see more mergers and acquisitions in the future. What does this mean for HTM departments? Simply, only the strong will survive. Those departments that have embraced analytics and utilized data and technology will be valued strategic leaders within their respective business; a great group of people that can fix anything will be transactional providers of a commodity service. HTM departments that offer diversified and comprehensive services – such as asset management, strategic service and operational analytics, OEM-level training, and employee retention strategies – will replace the “we fix it all” mentality with a “we intentionally manage and align our equipment with our business” approach. This essential shift is required as we begin the journey to align expense with revenue and replace volume with value.
Value-based care delivery models, as discussed in many of our previous articles, will drive intelligent equipment decision making and utilization strategies in the near- and long-term. Given our volume-based schema, it is hard to imagine the impact on our industry when equipment strategy moves from use it all the time to use it as infrequently as possible. The creation of positive operating margin, value-based care strategies will look to extract as much cost and overhead out of the health care continuum as possible. This can be both a blessing and a curse for HTM. If there is a reduction in equipment inventory, based on lower utilization, the need for repair services from HTM departments will most certainly decrease and with it, economic buying power. However, hospitals and health systems will need to accurately determine the comprehensive per procedure/per patient cost of care delivery to instill a profit and loss discipline within their business. As institutions more accurately analyze these costs and the ability of their customers to afford the resulting charges, they will undoubtedly look for ways to lower those costs to compete within an increasingly consumer-driven market. Value-based care will ultimately create additional opportunities for HTM departments in areas not traditionally serviced by our field. Operating room robotics, pharmacy carts, medical IT solutions and others are all potential areas for HTM departments to exploit.
It is critical to acknowledge that HTM departments must also be willing to step-up and stand-out individually and collectively, to catalyze the fundamental changes confronting us now and, unless we force the change, in the future. We have been discussing many of these areas over the course of the past year. Suppliers must increase their transparency related to expected and actual parts performance, both in objective published registries as well as in contracts. Suppliers must stop purposefully obsolescing their equipment materially earlier than any provider could reasonably afford. Suppliers must stop charging premium prices for equipment that is 510K approved and has no material contractual incremental performance improvements. Suppliers must stop shifting financial responsibility for their recalls and operational limitations to providers. GPOs must stop enabling suppliers by staying silent on critical expectations related to objective performance data as well as allowing suppliers to use the GPO as an indexed price which prevents rationale negotiation. The existence of the optimal HTM of the future is fully dependent upon each of our voices and wills. On behalf of Patrick and myself, it has been a pleasure writing these monthly articles for the past year. We are especially grateful to TechNation for affording us the opportunity to express our thoughts and opinions. We originally set out to provide something different, something fresh. Hopefully, you found our articles insightful, informative and, at times, just a bit outside the norm. Thank you so much for your support and, in spite of current conditions, we hope all of you have a joyous and safe holiday season.
Patrick Flaherty is the vice president of operations for UPMC BioTronics. Joseph Haduch, MBA, MS, is the senior director of clinical engineering for UPMC BioTronics. The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of TechNation or MD Publishing.
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