3 Ways to Grow Your In-House Clinical Engineering Department
In many hospitals it’s simply accepted that the service needs of imaging equipment will never be fully managed by in-house clinical engineers. The in-house engineer will work on lower-risk machines like c-arms, bone densitometers, and portable x-ray while the OEM “big guns” will take care of the CTs, MRIs, and PET scanners. This arrangement is common and it gets the job done, but we think it’s a mistake. Hospitals are investing in high-overhead expenses for their lowest return-on-investment equipment and it leaves an untapped talent pool inside their facilities.
As a third-party imaging equipment service provider, we work frequently with in-house clinical engineers. These are technical staff trained in electronics, mechanics, computer hardware, and software; essentially, many of the same building blocks that comprise the training of OEM engineers. But all too often these professionals are limited in the equipment they are entrusted with.
With the current financial and political shifts in the medical industry, now is the time for hospitals to capitalize on what they already have by empowering their clinical engineering staff to take on far more service challenges. The common problem is: does the administration believe it can happen?
The following are three things clinical engineers can do to create administrator buy-in and grow their departments:
1. Understand that you are in the BUSINESS of healthcare technology
The prevailing mentality in the industry is: break-fix-repeat. To grow your department you’ll need to break this mentality and comprehend the overall expense equipment engineering poses to the organization. Creating buy-in won’t happen without concrete numbers in hand and the ability to present a proposal. Your ability to present a cost savings proposal and win support will benefit your facility, patient care, and your personal career opportunities. Know how equipment service dollars are being spent and how you’d propose spending those dollars more effectively.
2. Break dependency on OEMs
Your organization can’t increase engineering efficiency or reduce costs if they’re still on full OEM service contracts. The price tag on these agreements is steep, to say the least, and leaning on them keeps in-house clinical engineers from expanding their skill sets.
Do some shopping around in the third-party service marketplace. Look into the prices of training programs. Paying less for a service contract and reinvesting that money in training for in-house staff will wean your staff off higher-cost OEM programs.
3. Grow your appetite for risk
As your department develops skills and experience through hiring and training, set target dates for taking on larger and more risky service responsibilities. Work with a partner, like a third-party service provider or training facility, to determine when you’re ready. As you increase the risks and reduce the contract costs, the savings can be substantial and immediate.
Creating the administrative buy-in necessary for moving imaging equipment service in-house won’t happen the instant you gather some numbers and tout your willingness to train, but this information will help generate important awareness. Getting real numbers and actionable cost-cutting ideas into your hospital CFO’s hands has the potential to save a lot of money, build careers, and, most importantly, improve the quality of patient care.
Block Imaging is ready to help you answer any questions about the “next steps” for your facility:
- Find out what the risk factors are of your specific imaging equipment. This includes parts availability for your systems and availability of third-party service support when you need it.
- Determine where the biggest cost savings are by moving to a third-party contract that will maintain or improve your uptime and response time.
- Discover training programs that can build your in-house capability.
Meet the authors: Jason Crawford and Jordan Batterbee
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