Four strategies to increase service staff satisfaction by increasing departmental efficiency

By Martin Wimmer

The healthcare industry recognized the importance of staff satisfaction when it expanded the traditional triple aim of healthcare to a quadruple aim, adding improved staff experience to the original three aims of better health outcomes, lower cost of care, and improved patient experience.

In imaging departments that depend on uptime to manage high patient throughput, biomedical engineers and service technicians are an invaluable part of the team, juggling planned and unplanned maintenance, upgrades, and strategic planning. Keeping these unsung heroes of a well-run hospital satisfied with their work pays off in retention of experienced staff. Savvy managers know that beyond traditional HR tools such as salary, benefits and vacation, a positive work environment can be an excellent retention tool.

Martin Wimmer

One aspect of creating a positive environment is offering interesting and efficient work. Employees like to be challenged and seldom like to waste their time. If your service team is working beyond capacity, there are steps you can take to enhance efficiency and decrease burnout. Here are four.

1. Offload Some Tasks to Independent Service Providers

One way to decrease the burden on the service team is to offload some routine maintenance tasks to independent service organizations, or ISOs. These providers can perform scheduled maintenance, freeing departmental staff for more strategic tasks.

ISOs can also be valuable sources of information because their experience working at multiple institutions may give them insights into equipment and processes that aren’t used at your institution.

Ask your independent service providers about opportunities to tighten your budget. For example, third-party replacement parts can provide a cost-effective and quality alternative to parts supplied by imaging system manufacturers. Your ISO partners can recommend third-party parts that they trust to perform just as well as OEM parts

2. Build a Strategic Spare Parts Inventory

A well-curated inventory of spare parts for imaging equipment that you service in-house can contribute to departmental efficiency. It can also eliminate the frustration of diagnosing a problem, only to discover that the necessary part is unavailable.

Survey all those who service equipment to reassess assumptions about which parts should be kept on-hand. This may seem like a simple task, but there are many considerations:

  • Does the part need frequent replacement?
  • Has your hospital or enterprise recently added equipment that creates greater demand for a particular part?
  • Is this part often on back-order, so that keeping several available will decrease downtime?
  • Where is the nearest source? How quickly does it deliver?

In addition to making sure you have parts on-hand for repair, assess the uptime needs of your equipment. If a piece of equipment requires near continuous uptime, for instance, it may make sense to schedule preventative replacement of high-wear parts before they fail. This will reduce the stress placed on staff while also decreasing downtime.

3. Take Advantage of Remote Servicing

While it is not available for all equipment, a variety of imaging systems support remote system monitoring. Key benefits of remote system monitoring include identifying issues before they become problems, enabling remote upgrades that keep your imaging equipment on the cutting edge, and over-the-shoulder remote guidance to troubleshoot issues.

While all these factors are advantageous to patients and users of imaging systems, they also prevent your in-house service staff from squandering their time chasing dead-end potential solutions and researching questions that can be easily answered by manufacturers.

4. Provide Access to Educational Opportunities

Many manufacturers offer classes to help keep biomedical engineering department staff abreast of how to service new systems, as well as changes in servicing existing systems. Classes may be offered either onsite, at the manufacturers’ educational facilities, or virtually.

In addition to these formal opportunities, which may or may not come with a price tag, there are often less-formal ways to advance knowledge and skill. Two valuable opportunities are webinars, which are offered by professional organizations and industry personnel throughout the year, and presentations at professional meetings. Sometimes even a YouTube search can reveal surprisingly good and detailed information. Finally, don’t overlook educational opportunities provided by manufacturers of subsystems or parts, as these sources often have specific expertise beyond the generalist approach of large system manufacturers.

Remember: Providing access to educational opportunities is a sign of investment in your staff, which adds to staff satisfaction. Consider creating avenues for employees to share educational tools that they’ve found to be helpful. These four strategies—offloading tasks to ISOs, building a strategic spare parts inventory, taking advantage of remote servicing, and providing access to educational opportunities—pay off by creating a work environment in which every member can successfully contribute to the good of the organization while minimizing frustration with inefficiency or mundane tasks.

Martin Wimmer is the service leader for x-ray tubes and generators at Dunlee. His team helps customers achieve maximum equipment uptime at competitive cost by providing technical training and support, and by ensuring products are developed and maintained to meet current and future service performance needs. Questions and comments can be directed to 24×7 Magazine chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at [email protected].