Formed in 1989 with the merger of Akron City Hospital and St. Thomas Hospital, Summa Health is a nonprofit health system in northeastern Ohio with more than 1,300 licensed beds and multiple specialties, including cancer care, advanced bariatric care, sports health, and behavioral health. Here, Ken Mylar, MBA, CHTM, CBET, system director of healthcare technology management (HTM) for Summa Health, discusses how his department is coping with COVID-19, cybersecurity, and other issues while maintaining a high level of service to such a broad and diverse health system. 

24×7 Magazine: Can you please tell us a little bit about your department and the equipment you maintain?

Ken Mylar: The Summa Health Healthcare Technology Management Department manages almost 27,000 devices across the system, which consists of the following hospitals: Akron Campus, Barberton Campus, St. Thomas Campus, and the Summa Rehab Hospital. It also consists of 12 medical centers, two urgent cares, four emergency departments, and more than 100 Summa Health Medical Group offices. Over the last few years, we have been working on moving more and more services in-house versus outside contracts. We have 11 biomedical equipment technicians, five imaging specialists, and an HTM manager and system director. 

24×7: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected HTM operations at your facility? How have your practices changed?

Mylar: We tried to keep it as much business as usual for the technicians as we could. PM and repairs were still needed and projects continued. The closing of off-sites and limiting of nonessential procedures freed up staffing to work on surge capacity equipment, checking in ventilators, and monitoring equipment. 

Things that will change for us moving forward are how we look at new equipment features as well as the handling of older equipment. When we look to replace equipment, we now need to consider whether it’s a device that we should keep at our warehouse for future situations. And all of that older equipment stored at the warehouse, awaiting disposition, will now need to stay on the active inventory and be regularly inspected for functionality. We had 40 to 50 monitors in our warehouse without any accessories, and when we went to place an order, we had a two-month backorder for most items. When looking for new equipment, we need to add a focus on remote capabilities, viewing, and control. We need to incorporate ways to limit staff exposure and reduce the use of PPE, if at all possible. 

24×7: Maintaining a strong pipeline of talent is a challenge for any biomed department—especially given the widespread graying of the field. So how does your team attract and retain department members? 

Mylar: This is something we have been going through a lot of in the last couple of years. We are fortunate enough to be in a region that still has a handful of schools offering biomedical equipment technology within a few hours’ radius. We have tried to open the communication between our HR Department and their career centers to allow us to post positions as they come up. But the timing of their graduations has not always matched well with our needs. We also try to get the word out through our HTMA-OH biomed group as well as reach out to the Department of Defense BMET school. 

We have been looking to take on more equipment and services, so we’ve been able to justify a lot of education/service schools, which allows for technician growth in other areas. We’ve recently worked to restructure the positions to align more with the industry, converting from one BMET position and an imaging specialist into a BMET I, II, III, and imaging specialist to put a career ladder in place as well as the ability to grow into a higher role. 

24×7: Cybersecurity is a major issue in the medical device sector. What steps is your department taking to thwart cyberattacks?

Mylar: The cybersecurity issue is one that has been growing more and more and it has really helped create a closer working relationship between the HTM and IT departments. We worked with them on a project to demo various products that scan the network for all medical and IT devices, which really opened up the communication. Now we work closely with them on integration, patching, network and segregation, and most recently we have been moving all of our medical wireless to its own dedicated network. We use a product called Medigate to continuously scan and monitor our network traffic to look for issues. It reports out a lot of network characteristics and data, and identifies current threats, equipment risk levels, recalls, and other issues. 

24×7: How is Summa Health working with outside providers to assist with the servicing of critical medical equipment? 

Mylar: Like most HTM departments, we are always looking for opportunities to reduce our cost of service without affecting our level of service quality. A few years ago, I wanted to see if we could standardize some of our vendors to get a bigger discount for items like batteries, bulbs, and depot repairs. After doing some research, I found that we could use PartsSource as that main supplier. They used the same vendors as us but received a much bigger discount than we could on our own.

After some initial success, we became PartsSource Pro members a few months later. In August 2018, we started looking into servicing our CTs in-house. We reached out to the OEM, alternate service providers and parts providers and once again found that we could use PartsSource to support us in this venture. They not only had the parts when we needed them, they also had a service tech who specialized in our units that could come onsite and help us as we were learning.

24×7: What else should 24×7 Magazine readers know about your department?

Mylar: We are always looking to learn and improve not only on the technical side, but our department as a whole. We try to update our policies and processes to coincide with the way the industry is going. We support our local biomed association, HTMA-OH, and also have a handful of certified employees.