From the January/February issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By Todd Singleton and Nick Allen
Hospitals rely on well-maintained, never-off technology to best serve patients, but facing the pressures of health care reform, a challenging economy, and reduced budgets, many hospitals can no longer afford around-the-clock OEM services.
Even as in-house biomedical engineers are tasked with increasing responsibility, remote services can support internal efforts with in-depth problem solving solutions, providing shorter down times and facilitating increased knowledge.
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The delivery of hardware, software and maintenance from outside of the hospital, remote services have been available for a number of years. However, historically many hospitals have eschewed phone and online portals for remote technical support, in part due to perceptions that working with OEMs remotely could lead to loss of ownership responsibilities. Yet remote services offer a balanced option, allowing in-house teams primary ownership of equipment, but with the assurance of immediately available, advanced resources as back-up.
Although budgets are decreasing, the number of medical devices used at the patient bedside is increasing. In a study, GE Healthcare found that between 1995 and 2010, hospitals’ clinical devices per bed increased by 62 percent. With so many more devices integral to patient care, biomeds are being asked to do more with fewer resources. But as service demands continue to rise, engineers cannot become experts in just one modality – their skills are needed to tend to many kinds of equipment. It is a constant struggle for hospitals to keep biomeds trained on the latest equipment to meet quality and compliance regulations.
For example, a hospital may own an MR, which the biomedical department is responsible for servicing. Although an MR is a complex medical device requiring specialized training, the hospital will still expect timely resolution of problems from the in-house staff so that patient care is not impacted. Remote services offerings through a shared services contract – an OEM contract that allows in-house biomedical departments more flexibility and cooperative partnership – empowers hospitals to maintain access to experts, but at a more affordable cost.