10 Ways to Strengthen Insourcing of Med-Device Services (Part 2 of 2)

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Here are five more things hospitals’ healthcare technology managers can do to avoid elimination by outsourcing—and to increase their departments’ chances for long-term survival regardless of what changes the reform age brings to healthcare economics. (Click here for the first five.)

6. Trust in your staying power today. Prepare to still have it tomorrow. Clinical engineers must embrace the changes that are reshaping the healthcare landscape, but they also should feel confident about the value they bring to the table, says Jennifer Jackson, director of clinical engineering and device integration at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “In many, many scenarios, it’s still the clinical engineer or the biomedical technician who knows the most about what goes on with technology at the bedside,” she says. It helps that she encourages clinical engineering (CE) staff to seek outside training for A+ certification and other IT credentialing. She’s also visionary enough to consider hiring IT people and training them on CE duties. “Today we have to really look at the person and not necessarily the degree,” she says. “A technical person with strong interpersonal skills who wants to reach out of their comfort zone to learn: That is what I’m looking for.”

7. Go above, beyond and maybe even a little sideways. Last year David Dickey’s team took on the repair and maintenance of supply-dispensing cabinets for the pharmacy and materials management. These are not pieces of direct patient-care equipment, but Dickey, corporate director of clinical engineering for McLaren Health in Flint, Mich., knows a cost-savings opportunity when he spots one. “The vendor was telling us it can’t be done; we’d be the only hospital he knew of that would be servicing these things in-house,” he recalls. “We forced the issue and got them to cooperate.” The bottom line, he adds, is the bottom line—and, then, not the CE department’s but the provider’s. “You always have to look at the total dollars leaving the organization. That’s what I always preach: What can we do to minimize the flow of cash outside the organization? And what can we do to control the timing of the cash flow? ‘Days Cash on Hand’ is a very important benchmark to a CFO.”

8. Take charge of change. (Or change will take charge of you.) “It’s time for our field to develop a new department model, as our roles have increased and the need for educated, specialized staff has become so important,” says Douglas Dreps, CE director for the Eastern region of the Chesterfield, Mo.-based Mercy Health System. “Leaders in our department have earned titles such as CTO and VP of healthcare technology management. Now, other management positions are opening up to CE staff, such as project managers and integration networking administrators. We can even have input on some design factors because we know how the equipment works and how the users work with it.”

To this Jackson adds: “If your institution is starting down the path of EHR planning, now is the time to start reaching out to leadership to say, ‘Medical device integration should be a part of this. Let’s talk about it now, while the organization is selecting an EHR or scoping out the plan.’” She points to HIMSS as a source of resources that can help launch and guide these processes, adding that the CE director’s deep knowledge of workflow surrounding bedside devices can help with the development of an airtight EHR plan. “With a CE’s knowledge of useability, workflow and pain points present at the bedside,” she says, “you can demonstrate that the strategic team needs CE representation.”

9. Do customer satisfaction surveys and make the rounds. Dreps is big on both. “It’s important to do surveys because you need to keep a finger on the pulse of your [departmental] customers,” he says. “And it’s good to look in on every customer in person whenever possible.” You can bet that nursing has the ear of the top leadership folks on matters affecting quality of patient care. Even little customer-service touches go a long way in keeping people happy—and voluntarily complimentary.

10. The joy of success is contagious. Spread it. “There is something beautiful about watching a CE team that functions smoothly,” concludes Jackson. “And if you have happy clinical engineers and biomedical technicians working together, in sync, where everyone understands the users’ needs and can come together to address a problem at 2 o’clock in