Clinical Engineering in Pandemic Preparedness StrategiesBy Miriam Bello | Mon, 04/20/2020 - 17:15
Q: What role do biomedical and clinical engineers play in healthcare operations?
A: The main objective of biomedical or clinical engineers is to assure medical equipment is available when needed, is safe to use on patients and is feasible for operation during its productive lifecycle. Clinical engineering (CE) professionals have struggled to clear the air of what our true role is in healthcare facilities, as many hospital directors might consider us to be “firefighters” in hospitals that are available whenever there is trouble and can work with any piece of equipment. While this is not entirely false, a CE professional can offer much more than that and it is our job to clarify how we contribute to the healthcare sector worldwide.
Medical equipment units are tools used by healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat patients on a daily basis. Without these tools, it would be impossible for them to practice modern medicine safely. On the business side, these technologies represent assets that allow public or private healthcare facilities and professionals to offer medical services to a specific market and make a living. I strongly believe that medical equipment is the second most important asset in any healthcare facility right after healthcare professionals, as they are essential for the nature of their business.
Maintenance is just a fraction of the scope of CE professionals, as the lifecycle of any medical equipment unit includes planning, budgeting, assessment, procurement, logistics, installation, training, operation, safety, preventive maintenance, repairing and decommission. If the biomedical or clinical engineer’s role is limited to only maintenance activities, then these businesses are leaving plenty of money on the table. Our role can be summarized in a simple phrase: plan, execute and improve a Health Technology Management (HTM) strategy that assures the highest grade of safety for patients.
Q: What are the benefits biomedical and clinical engineers get from using CMMS?
A: Computerized Maintenance Management Software/Systems (CMMS) are digital tools that serve mainly one purpose: standardize and digitalize maintenance-related activities to produce relevant data that enhances decision-making processes.
Conventionally, whenever we hear the term inventory, we tend to relate it to spreadsheets like MS Excel, which is the most adopted tool by Mexican CE professionals to manage assets in healthcare facilities. When facing a contingency and having to plan, spreadsheets do not force users to adopt a nomenclature to identify assets in a standardized manner. This creates a huge problem whenever we want to know how many assets are available by each category, such as critical equipment; type, such as mechanical ventilators, or brand. Speaking of COVID-19, the demography of available mechanical ventilators provided by multiple media sources might be inaccurate as it is hard to know how many life-supporting devices there are in Mexico, how many need to be fixed or worse, how many need to be procured or manufactured.
While some hospitals might have the resources and willingness to invest in CMMS platforms, most of the available options have been either designed to meet the needs of other markets like mining or aerospace or have been designed by foreign companies to meet the needs of another reality.
I have visited general hospitals in many states and the status of the medical devices in every hospital is deplorable, which is worrying because they are public hospitals that receive large groups of people. The control of medical devices in number and status was nonexistent. Some hospitals have anesthesia equipment that has not been serviced in five years. I do not blame the hospitals because most of them have to do what they can with what they have. This is incredibly dangerous but it is also a great management opportunity.
We took matters into our own hands and developed a solution that was based on the current challenges that CE professionals live daily and that complied with our current healthcare regulations and standards: TINC CMMS.
Q: How has the medical sector reacted to TINC CMMS’ solution?
A: We have been very well-received at hospitals after approaching them with an evidence-based solution and demonstrating results that translated to operational optimization and safety enhancement. Since we focus more on educating our customers on the importance and value of trustworthy data production rather than on fast scaling our sales. We have managed to grow exponentially thanks to their success.
We began as a startup and in 2018 had 35 clients. Today, we work with 141 clients in seven countries and we are in our first investment round to raise MX$6 million (US$250,000). TINC‘s global success demonstrates the importance of the project and the urgent need for its solutions.
Regardless of our milestones, I am happy that more people understand how CEs can contribute to healthcare safety and efficiency aspects.
Q: How can the public and private sectors work together to promote the importance of clinical engineering?
A: Our biggest challenge as CE professionals is to promote awareness on the importance of our role in key decisions in healthcare. For example, helping the healthcare sector to be aware of which devices best fit a hospital’s current needs, what technical specifications of a device relate to an intended clinical practice, what periodic quality assurance measures do we need to execute after a device is placed on service, the budget needed to maintain our current medical equipment units and how to effectively budget and procure urgent medical technology.
Our healthcare leaders need to urgently establish a result-driven dialogue and strategy with CE authorities such as the Mexican Society for Biomedical Engineering (SOMIB) and the Mexican College of Biomedical Engineering (CIB). These institutions have done an outstanding job on educating CE professionals and students, as well as gathering the human resources to produce results in the short term. They work alongside the International Federation of Medical and Biological Engineering’s Clinical Engineering Division (IFMBE CED) and other very successful international associations such as the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) and American College of Clinical Engineering (ACCE), which gather success stories and best practices from thousands of CE professionals. In my opinion, it’s a matter of willingness and proactivity from our healthcare authorities.
Q: How is TINC collaborating to beat the current pandemic in Mexico?
A: We have recently released a new development called TINC LTE so that any healthcare institution can standardize its medical equipment inventory and produce urgent data needed to fight this pandemic. This software is completely free and aims to eradicate the problem of data standardization in health technology management. We have transferred over 10 years of experience on managing medical devices and have designed a tool that will enhance CE capabilities rather complicate them. We not only hope to help our country in this current pandemic but also to provide the basis for disaster or pandemic preparedness in the near future.
In an era of digital tools, access to reliable and trustworthy data is the key to design and execute strategies that help our country surpass any challenge to come. Our team is very thankful for all the work done at the frontline by CEs and healthcare professionals and is committed to providing the necessary tools and knowledge to measure, learn and improve from any threat in healthcare.
TINC CMMS is a software used to produce key data about medical equipment performance, availability and risk in healthcare institutions