By Jeffrey Ruiz

With IoT devices, the advent of artificial intelligence, and various other healthcare technology innovations, one would think that the HTM field would be at the forefront of leading and managing such advances. I know many of my counterparts are doing just that—engaging with technology and discerning how to best use new tools to help improve patient outcomes, while also managing the risk they can bring. However, there are many HTM professionals who still have the “break-fix” mindset—and that concerns me greatly.

Jeffrey Ruiz

Jeffrey Ruiz

Breaking the ‘Break-Fix’ Mindset

Case in point: I recently sent one of my technicians to a service training. When any of my team members attend training, I encourage them to use it as an opportunity to network and share best practices. After all, it’s in those environments that the HTM community has an opportunity to increase its knowledge base and add to best practices.

It’s also a litmus test to see how both our own department and others are operating, so I was disappointed to hear that some of the other departments had not embraced new opportunities in healthcare. Those departments solely focused on the “break/fix” and PM mindset—and IT managed anything outside of that scope. One department started to have a dual CE/IT position, but even that was soon delegated to IT.

I bring up my concerns not to take away from the great work that we have accomplished as an industry with PMs and repairs. I think that, as an industry, we have pretty much mastered PM efficiencies, especially with the various AEM programs that have been implemented. After all, CMS has allowed the HTM community to perform alternative equipment maintenance on devices based on their equipment classifications. Sure, there may be some fine-tuning with these programs, but we are in a technologically advanced period that needs both our HTM expertise and skillset of managing risk to help evaluate how to best utlize these technologies.

Stretching Past the Comfort Zone

How can we do this? Well, first we have to stretch.

I love trail running. It allows me to release the stress of the week and brainstorm ideas. Also, it’s just plain nice to focus on moving one foot in front of another. But before I run, I always stretch. This helps loosen and warm up my muscles to prepare for the hilly or challenging terrain I am about to run. If I didn’t stretch, I could potentially harm myself and, thus, the run would be much less enjoyable. By stretching, I am preparing my body to expand my physical capabilities.

Similarly, stretching in the HTM community will help get us out of our comfort zones. In short, we need to expand beyond our current capabilities. We can do this by learning about what the benefits and risks are with these new technologies. We can reach out to our fellow HTM brothers and sisters and see how they are managing and implementing these technologies. We can also develop relationships with our colleagues in the IT space and see how we can help them.

Everyone Plays a Part

At an individual level, we can also have conversations with hospital leadership and share our own knowledge and insights into these new technologies. For example, if you’re already having conversations on completed PMs and repair statuses, you could take that opportunity to offer ways to help. Or, better yet, ask administrators what questions they may have regarding these new technologies and what challenges they are experiencing. Speaking up individually is really no different than what HTM professionals do each day when rounding with hospital leadership and asking what’s working and what’s not.

Additionally, share your successes—and even your failures—with the HTM community. Share implementation roadmaps or strategies and what worked and what didn’t work. What were your obstacles and challenges? How did you navigate through them, and what would you do differently in the future? These questions will be helpful in guiding your department to expand its role.

Technology is moving fast. We respond every day to our clinical customers for their equipment needs, so who better to help our hospitals navigate these technologies than us? Start small, make it manageable, and use the various resources that we have available in the HTM community. Seek the advice of others and develop your strategies—but also don’t forget to take a deep breath and stretch when you need to.

Jeffrey Ruiz is technology manager for a large hospital, and also is an adjunct professor in the biomedical engineering program at a community college, both in western Michigan. Questions and comments can be directed to 24×7 Magazine chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at kstephens@medqor.com.