By Kristi McDermott, president of clinical engineering, TRIMEDX
Traditional healthcare roles include doctors, nurses, mental health counselors and other staff who keep health systems up and running. However, there’s a group among them who are often overlooked despite the crucial role they play.
These teams are the clinical engineers, who are constantly hard at work keeping devices running smoothly and efficiently. The importance of clinical engineering teams has never been more prominent than during the COVID-19 pandemic. As healthcare professionals raced to provide crucial care for patients, CE teams were doing their best to make sure lifesaving equipment was up and running.
Effective hospital leadership recognizes that a well-functioning CE team should be viewed as a vital manager of medical equipment. These professionals are diligently working in the background to ensure that medical devices and machines are functioning and available the moment they’re needed.
As medical devices become more integrated and more complex, so too must the teams that service them. A data-driven CE team ensures that equipment is kept running smoothly and efficiently. The team also has the potential to unlock financial insights that hospital executives can depend on in their decision-making processes well into the future.
The role of the CE team is more than just equipment management
A typical hospital system can have thousands of pieces of equipment that constantly need to be monitored and maintained. Devices require recall repairs and updates, and equipment must be clean and usable. While these tasks are important to the CE role, they’re not the only part. When enabled with appropriate investments in technology, training and teamwork, CE teams also have the power to reduce reliance on costly independent service contracts, improve operational productivity and streamline patient care.
CFOs and other hospital administration can depend on professional CE teams to deliver information on risk and opportunity, which they do by leveraging device data. CE teams can determine things like how much of a particular type of equipment a hospital has versus how much it needs and what devices need to be updated or replaced. CE teams also can determine which devices need to be maintained and who the best candidate to do so is, cutting down time for technicians.
Hospitals spend billions of dollars each year on equipment replacement and service contracts when they should be looking to their CE teams to lean on during the decision-making process. A good CE team will be able to provide information on inventory, productivity needs, device downtime and regulatory issues to help management make the right decisions when spending money on technology.
CE teams and the COVID-19 pandemic
There’s no better example of CE teams providing crucial data-driven insight than during the COVID-19 pandemic. As hospital systems and healthcare professionals tirelessly worked to accommodate growing patient numbers, CE teams set up nurse call systems, beds, patient monitoring systems and other vital equipment. CE teams even assisted in setting up new buildings and outdoor spaces to hold the rapidly expanding intake numbers.
CE teams were able to determine which devices were crucial when treating COVID-19 patients and prioritized the maintenance, updates and repairs and allocation of these devices through computerized maintenance management systems. They kept a close eye on lifesaving devices such as ventilators and patient monitors and made sure that devices were ready when healthcare staff needed them. CE teams were also proactive in their preparation, paying close attention to the severity of COVID-19 in their facilities and anticipating when and how many devices would be needed. These teams have proved over and over again how valuable they are and their direct impact on hospital functions and the quality of patient care.
CE teams should no longer be overlooked
When it comes to cost containment, CE teams are the first line of defense. They’re able to gauge what service contracts should be kept, which to take in-house, what devices need to be fixed and when they should be replaced. They should be treated as a valuable resource to those making decisions because they are.
Clinical engineers help health systems see the bigger picture of their organization’s current state and give a glimpse of what’s coming. According to the Global Clinical Engineering Journal, clinical engineers “share a common mission to optimize safety, efficiency, cost controls, and healthcare quality through the application of systems-oriented engineering expertise that encompasses not only devices, but processes, human resources, procurement, risk management, and strategic planning.”
Clinical engineers set the foundation for a culture of shared responsibility through leading by example. These teams constantly share knowledge and responsibility to best service hospitals and, by extension, patients.
CE teams play a variety of integral functions in modern healthcare, from accurate inventory management to device maintenance and upkeep, all of which ultimately controls costs. No longer should these teams function only behind the scenes but instead should be recognized as the key player they truly are.
Kristi McDermott serves as president of clinical engineering for TRIMEDX, leading the growth in commercial operations as well as the service in clinical engineering field operations. Kristi has been in the healthcare industry for over 25 years and in the healthcare technologies space for over a decade. Previously, Kristi served as vice president of growth and vice president of field operations for Aramark Healthcare Technologies. She has served in numerous operations roles, including account manager and district manager, before becoming vice president of compliance for the Aramark Healthcare division, driving compliance initiatives across the corporation. Kristi earned a bachelor’s of science from Iowa State University and an MBA from Maryville University.