AAMI focuses on biomed in sessions, meetings; Biomeds honored at AAMI awards ceremony; BMETS meet at AAMI to consider national organization

Approximately 2,000 people attended the 2003 Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) Conference and Expo, June 14-17, in Long Beach, Calif.

 Visitors take to the floor in this bird’s-eye view of the exhibit area.

The annual show featured 50 educational sessions, more than 100 exhibitors and various AAMI committee meetings during the four-day event held in partnership with the American College of Clinical Engineering, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the California Medical Instrumentation Association (CMIA) and the Washington State Biomedical Association (WSBA).

 Conference participants attend one of several educational sessions.

Among the conference highlights for biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) was a two-day, back-to-basics “BMET Evaluation and Review Course” conducted by Ira Tackel, M.E., director of medical instrumentation at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia (and a member of the 24×7 editorial advisory board), together with other Philadelphia-area biomeds.

 The sun shines on the exterior of the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center.

Away from the classroom, there was no shortage of meetings from national organizations interested in supporting BMETs.

A new AAMI-BMET Task Force took advantage of members’ attendance at the conference to meet in person as a follow-up to their introductory conference call in April. The 15-member task force, charged with considering the importance of training opportunities, the impact of information technology and the role of local biomed societies, is expected to make recommendations to the AAMI board for services that will benefit the BMET community. The results of a recent survey of BMETS that was supervised by an independent research firm hired by AAMI were up for evaluation and discussion.

 John J. Nobel, M.D., founder and president emeritus of ECRI, delivered the 2003 Dwight E. Harken, M.D., Memorial Lecture at the awards luncheon. Binseng Wang of Mediq is at left.

The American College of Clinical Engineering, meanwhile, convened a 7 a.m. meeting, June 15, in advance of the 8:30 a.m. conference start, to talk about the ways that BMETS and clinical engineers (CEs) could embrace a cooperative, collaborative spirit in matters of education, recruitment and advocacy.

The 60-plus invitees to the meeting, assembled by ACCE Vice President Ted Cohen, manager of clinical engineering at University of California Davis Health System (Sacramento), included members of ACCE and representatives of biomed societies nationwide. In the relatively informal setting, participants wholeheartedly offered ideas for various educational, recognition and recruitment efforts that could help educate others in healthcare about the BMET scope of responsibility and elevate the standing of the profession.

Cohen has since followed up with a recap of project ideas to meeting attendees. The ACCE board will review and rank the projects for future implementation “with input from you,” he said.

Biomeds Honored at AAMI Awards Ceremony

Two biomeds who recently made the pages of 24×7 for honors within the industry continued their award-winning ways at the AAMI Foundation Awards Ceremony and luncheon held June 15 at the 2003 AAMI Conference and Expo in Long Beach, Calif.

 Gregory S. Duncan, CBET, chief biomedical engineer at Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, Calif., was honored as the AAMI/GE Medical Systems BMET of the Year. Duncan, who earlier this year became the first winner of the California Medical Instrumentation Association (CMIA) Professional of the Year award, received a $1,000 check and a plaque during luncheon ceremonies.

 Glen L. Wolfe, AABT, CBET, CET, a biomedical technician at LaGrange (Ill.) Memorial Hospital, was named the AAMI Foundation/TISCOR (Herb Gardner Foundation) award winner. Wolfe several months ago became the first biomedical electronics technician to be named Technician of the Year by the Electronics Technicians Association International. His AAMI award was a $1,000 check and a plaque, also.

See “Award-Winning Biomeds Lauded as ‘Firsts,’” May 24×7 Browser, for details regarding Duncan and Wolfe, their career paths, and their professional activities and awards.

While the American College of Clinical Engineering (ACCE) and even the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) itself used the occasion of the 2003 AAMI conference to engage biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) in discussions of issues that could benefit all parties, a roomful of enthusiastic biomeds gathered on June 16 to hear about recent efforts toward a “comprehensive” organization for men and women involved in clinical technology support.

Meeting organizer Mary Coker reminded attendees to the “Biomedical Support Professionals Organization Meeting” of the commitment made at the 2002 AAMI meeting to explore the founding of a BMET organization that would be national in scope.

Since then, Coker and others in the field have fashioned a structure on which to build such an organization, including a board and a description of its responsibilities, and work groups with a definition of their purpose and goals.

A national organization would offer several benefits, she told the audience. It would make “unified, powerful decisions” to promote the profession; it “empowers” individual activities; and it enables local BMET groups to become networked.

Local societies deal successfully with regional issues, Coker observed, but their effect is limited by the fact that, by their very nature, they exist for biomeds in a particular area.

“Locals lack power because they’re only pockets of success,” she pointed out.

The working title of the organization is “Clinical Technology Support Professionals Association,” and its mission is to “establish, maintain and expend resources for the medical equipment support and management community.”

Among its initial undertakings: addressing educational standards, instituting a data repository, affiliating with other organizations, creating a biomedical society network and marketing the profession.

Coker acknowledged the difficulty inherent in coaxing independently minded, determined men and women to coalesce under one banner. That quality of steadfastness, however, is also an advantage when attempting to get an organization up and running, she noted. In her conversations with biomeds about a national body, she was pleased to see a “growing sense of community.”

“We’re all strong-willed,” she recognized. “If everyone leaves their lobbying qualities at home, we may be successful!

“The only way to resolve issues is to have one voice,” she added.

The BMETS proved they could agree on an issue: The slogan for the group’s first T-shirt was chosen from among 185 entries, later reduced to nine.

Approximately 400 votes were cast for the nine, with “Servicing Technology for Life” — submitted by Roger Bowles, master instructor in Biomedical Equipment Technology at Texas State Technical College in Waco (and 24×7 editorial advisory board member) — declared the winner. Slogans and T-shirts will be updated every few years.

This month holds special significance for Alabama biomeds: The governor of that state, Don Siegelman, signed a proclamation setting aside Aug. 4-10 as “Biomedical Equipment Technicians Week.”

Biomeds from the Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Center in Anniston were instrumental in obtaining the pronouncement.

The text of the proclamation, which was signed last September in anticipation of the 2003 observance, follows:

“Whereas, modern health care relies upon machines, as well as people, for the best treatment available. Diagnostic instruments such as patient monitors, EKG machines and laboratory and X-ray equipment help establish the need for care. Therapeutic systems such as anesthesia machines, physical therapy instruments, pacemakers and radiation devices provide needed service to patients; and

Whereas, while health care costs are a major concern, costs can be controlled by effectively selecting and repairing medical equipment by qualified clinical engineers and biomedical technicians; and

Whereas, the biomedical technician has the level of education, experience and competence needed to work professionally with physicians, hospital administrators and other personnel regarding the technological aspects of health care delivery. They install, inspect, repair, calibrate and modify medical devices and medical support systems. These professionals offer advice about the operation, underlying physiological principles and the practical, safe, clinical application of medical devices. They also supervise biomedical equipment maintenance activities:

Now, therefore, I Don Siegelman, Governor of the State of Alabama, do hereby proclaim August 4 through August 10, 2003, as Biomedical Equipment Technicians Week in the state of Alabama and urge our citizens to recognize the importance of this profession in maintaining quality health care in our state.”

Battery testing and equipment maintenance company Cadex Electronics Inc. (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada) recently instituted an educational Web site on the topic of rechargeable batteries, at http://www.batteryuniversity.com.

Part One describes the strengths and limitations of different battery chemistries, while also addressing charging and discharging techniques. Part Two advises on the best choice of chemistry for a given application and suggests ways to get the most from batteries.

According to Cadex Electronics President Isidor Buchmann, the Web site contains information on battery behavior in the hands of users, removed from the research labs of battery manufacturers.

The service unit of Eastman Kodak Co.’s (Rochester, N.Y.) Health Imaging Group is branching out to provide services for medical imaging equipment made by other manufacturers.
Kodak Medical Imaging Equipment Services will include preventative maintenance, quality assurance and control, compliance testing, corrective maintenance and 24/7 call center support. The unit will cover technologies, such as computed radiography (CR), film digitizers, laser imagers and X-ray equipment.

Health Imaging also will offer additional service options, such as asset management and utilization, network and integration services, project management and application training.

The Health Imaging Group’s portfolio includes digital systems, laser imagers, picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) and radiology information systems (RIS).

Managed services provider Aramark (Philadelphia) has contracted to provide food and facility services to Empire Health Services (Spokane, Wash.).

Aramark will supply patient food and nutrition services and retail food services. Additionally, the company will provide environmental services, facility operations management and energy management through its Aramark ServiceMaster Facility Services business and clinical equipment management through its Aramark Clinical Technology Services (CTS of Charlotte, N.C.).

Annual sales of the contract are estimated at $13.5 million with an initial term of five years, according to a company statement.

DMS Health Group (Fargo, N.D.) last month purchased the assets and operations of North Star Medical (Shoreview, Minn.), a company that sells patient monitors, defibrillators, respiratory products, medical supplies and other medical products to healthcare facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa. A statement from the DMS Health Group said that the transaction involved the exchange of cash for assets but offered no other details.

North Star’s president, Dan Fackler, will remain with the company in the role of vice president, Cardiac and Monitoring Systems, within the DMS Health Technologies division.

“As North Star Medical becomes part of the DMS Health Group, we will do more than expand our market reach,” Fackler said in the statement. “We will open up opportunities for our entire team professionally as we integrate with the DMS Health Group and connect with the resources at [parent company] Otter Tail Corp. (Fergus Falls, Minn., and Fargo, N.D.)”

Randy Hill recently was named senior vice president of national service, Siemens Medical Solutions USA (Malvern, Pa.). He replaces Prashant Ranade, who was promoted to another position within Siemens.

Hill, who has been with the company for approximately 25 years, most recently was zone vice president for Southeast sales. As he progressed through positions of increasing responsibility through the years, he learned planning, sales and installations, service and logistics — expertise that he said enables him to bring a comprehensive, customer-centered approach to his plans and direction for Siemens’ service operations.

“I think service has to become more of a partner with sales and logistics,” he said. “We tout ourselves as a solutions provider, and if we [at Siemens] don’t work together to understand what the customer needs, we aren’t going to provide the proper solution, so I think we need to have a much closer relationship with sales and logistics. I just think we, as a team, don’t spend enough time at the very beginning of the relationship with the customer to take them through the lifecycle of equipment.”

Hill also wants to make better use of what he described as the “world-class” Siemens Training and Development Center and Uptime Service Center located adjacent to each other in Cary, N.C.

He would like Siemens to tap into the vast knowledge base it has in both facilities by increasing its on-site training programs and expanding into e-training opportunities. He also sees the Uptime Center as a proactive, rather than reactive, resource, geared to managing planned events.

“Planned maintenance is one,” he explained. “We were leaving this to be scheduled by the service engineer, and it was difficult. So now we are planning all the planned maintenance out of the Uptime Center; we coordinate with the customer; and now we are completing our planned maintenance at greater than 90 percent within 30 days.

“What I think we need to do is to start planning across the company,” he continued. “[Now] we let every area service manager (ASM) — we have 48, 50 of them — schedule his own resources; I think we need to look at it globally to make sure we are utilizing training, customer support, so we don’t look at it as 50 different islands. So I need the Uptime Center to become more of a master scheduler. If we can take that burden and look at what the engineer needs, what the backlog is, that will enable the ASM to focus on the customer. I think they spend too much time trying to do all things, and they’re not really managing the customer. This is not an easy challenge, but it’s one I’ve already identified.”

Hill discussed other plans for the service segment. Among the highlights:

• To increase its ability to capture new business through management of hospitals’ equipment and long-term service contracts. Hospitals need to know that they can get the best deal by partnering with Siemens for equipment and services; as a result, Siemens can be at the forefront of a hospital’s decision to replace equipment, make equipment more efficient or reduce equipment by technology.

• A renewed emphasis on remote services. A new initiative with the Uptime Center to enroll more customers in on-line monitoring services is already in place, with a goal of 500 more customers by Oct. 1. Monitoring more customers remotely is another way the Uptime Center can be proactive, Hill said.

• A “triage” approach to handling customer calls, which Hill likened to an emergency room’s approach to deciding what to do for a critically ill patient. A customer who calls in with a problem will talk with several people to determine the type of equipment problem and the most appropriate solution. Siemens already applies this approach to calls for its CT and MR systems, Hill acknowledged, but he hopes to expand it to calls covering other systems as well.

• A program to recognize loyal Siemens customers, much like those airline programs that salute their frequent flyers by knowing their seat, meal and flight preferences. “We don’t differentiate between customers when they call in,” Hill said, “so the other thing at Uptime is: How do we differentiate, to take care of our customers who are special to us?”

X-ray and CT tube replacement supplier North American Imaging (NAI of Camarillo, Calif.) last month introduced ProbeSource, a replacement ultrasound transducer service.

ProbeSource transducers are remanufactured OEM (original equipment manufacturer) probes that are restored to meet ISO standards, including ISO 9001, EN 46001 and ISO 132485 manufacturing standards, according to a company statement. General cardiac, abdominal and OB/GYN probes come with a 12-month warranty; TEE probes carry a six-month warranty.

The ProbeSource service also offers free shipping. For additional details, visit the ProbeSource Web site at www.probesource.com.

“Our customers receive their replacement probes with all freight prepaid and return labels and packaging provided for return of the exchange unit, Roger Zavalla, ProbeSource customer service representative, said in the statement. “There are no add-on shipping costs that show up on the final invoice, and our customers can eliminate the administrative time spent assembling shipping materials.”

NAI, a McDonough Medical Products company, is an independent supplier of replacement X-ray tubes, CT tubes, medical image intensifiers and digital camera upgrades.

Nuvo Inc. (Erie, Pa.) recently acquired the rights to market and sell Hill-Rom (Batesville, Ind.) surgical lights and monitors to the operating room (OR) market segment.

Nuvo, a privately owned company formed in 1997 to focus on the development and production of ceiling-mounted equipment for the operating room, is the original manufacturer for Hill-Rom surgical lights and monitors.

“At Nuvo, we are excited to market our own manufactured products, and we plan to continue the successful sales history of these products,” President Geoffrey Bond said in a prepared statement.

Recycle With Dell
After becoming the target of angry environmental and workers’ rights groups, Dell Computer (Round Rock, Texas) in early July launched an “enhanced” recycling and recovery program aimed at businesses and public customers, including governments, schools and healthcare institutions.

The Dell Asset Recovery Services (ARS) program will allow Dell customers, after an evaluation and recommendation from the company, to choose whether to recycle or resell their old or outdated computer hardware, including desktops, notebooks, servers, storage, networking, monitors, projectors and computer peripherals.

With a computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse constituting one system, recycling begins at a cost of $49 per system; recovery starts at $59 per system.

The European Union (EU) Commission has outlined its concerns about General Electric Co.’s (GE of Fairfield, Conn.) proposed $2.1 billion acquisition of Instrumentarium Corp. (Helsinki) in a confidential communiqué.

The EC sent the so-called “statement of objections” to both companies in early July. Such a document typically would detail the agency’s evaluations of how an acquisition of this magnitude would affect competition but does not propose or recommend actions that companies may take to rectify antitrust issues.

At a daily EC news briefing on July 7, EC spokesperson Amelia Torres said that she would “not go into the substance of the [EC’s] concerns that we have at this stage. We continue to discuss those concerns with these companies with a view to reaching a solution to the problems outlined.”

On May 12, the EU suspended the Aug. 18 deadline to review the transaction and asked GE to provide additional information about the deal. The action delays a formal decision from the EU until Sept. 11.

The EU began its four-month probe into the acquisition on April 3 and its potential market impact in areas, such as breast screening equipment, mobile C-arms and anesthesia monitors.

European regulators reportedly are paying closest attention to the combination of Instrumentarium’s anesthesia technology and patient monitoring systems from GE Medical Systems (GEMS of Waukesha, Wis.). The commission reportedly is looking at market share, as well as its effect on bidding and pricing for contracts. (See “EU to Probe GE’s Buy of Instrumentarium,” May 24×7 Browser.)

The U.S. Justice Department also is evaluating antitrust implications the transaction would have in the United States.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the EU has narrowed its scrutiny to the effect the new company would have in the patient monitoring device market.

Instrumentarium’s patient monitoring business is Spacelabs Medical (Redmond, Wash.). (See “Germany, U.S. OK Instrumentarium-Spacelabs Deal,” July 2002 24×7 Browser.)

GE Medical Systems (GEMS of Waukesha, Wis.) announced on July 15 that it had “finalized” its acquisition of Thales Ultrasound Probes S.A. (Paris).

Thales Ultrasound Probes, a supplier of custom transducers for medical ultrasound and other applications, has more than 20 years’ experience in the ultrasound industry and has built its reputation on its transducer technology.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. No other details were available by press time.