Having a forum to share ideas and problems, ask work- related questions, and get answers is invaluable in an industry where enormous amounts of money are spent on equipment acquisition and maintenance. In September 1997, Michael R. Kauffman, CBET, assistant director of facilities, Reading Hospital and Medical Center (Reading, Pa), started the “Biomedtalk Listserv” so he and others in his profession would have easier access to the wealth of knowledge of others in the industry who are spread across the country. Kauffman’s Biomedtalk Listserv is an online forum that now has more than 2,000 members who log onto the listserv daily to get advice about equipment purchases and maintenance issues; to share information about meetings, recalls, and regulations; as well as to offer up some occasional humor—all via e-mail.

Kauffman, a family man and a member of 24×7’s editorial advisory board, says living close to his workplace allows him the time in his busy schedule to manage the listserv. Every day, the collective e-mails sent by members are gathered together and sent as attachments in a single e-mail that is delivered automatically to a member’s inbox. From there, members have access to read any or all of the e-mails and respond, if desired, to the listserv as a whole, or answer the e-mails individually.

Kauffman’s Biomedtalk Listserv members now span the globe and log on from such countries as Canada, Australia, Vanuatu, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa, and many others. In a conversation with 24×7, Kauffman shares his thoughts about this valuable service.

24×7: What prompted you to start Biomedtalk Listserv?

Kauffman: At the time, I always enjoyed attending our local biomed society meetings and discussing technical aspects of our profession. We also often called other hospitals to get information about problems, new equipment, test equipment, etc. This was a laborious task that resulted in limited feedback. I began searching the Web for biomedical forums. I found other listservs related to medical equipment and posted a few messages. The feedback I received was less than desired. Some feedback was actually quite rude, for example, “That question does not belong on this forum.” The need for better communication among biomedical technicians became evident, and I began investigating various forums. The “LSoft – Listserv” program turned out to be the best of the best.

24×7: How did you get the word out about it after you started it?

Kauffman: I used AOL’s member search for anyone with “biomed” in their profile. I would send out personal invitations, try to instant message them when they were online, and basically begged them to join Biomedtalk and give it a try.

24×7: It obviously worked! About how many new members do you get a week?

Kauffman: Approximately 1 to 2 new members join each week.

24×7: Is there a membership fee? How does someone join?

Kauffman: From 1997 to the beginning of 2006, there was no charge for membership. I now require a minimum payment of $15 from a new member.

24×7: How do you get your sponsors?

Kauffman: This has developed by word of mouth. Vendors actually call or e-mail me and ask to be added to the “Bottom Banner” rotation.

24×7: Is running Biomedtalk and getting sponsors a lot of work for you?

Kauffman: Getting the sponsors is no work at all. They have actually come to me. I am blessed by living 5 minutes from my employer. Much of the time most people spend commuting to/from work, I fill in with the management of Biomedtalk. I also have learned to “Not think too much” about any decision related to Biomedtalk. I have learned that my first impression is usually as good as a formal analysis in my brain. I do my best and hope it works out most of the time.

24×7: What has been the greatest benefit of starting and running the listserv?

Kauffman: It has brought the biomedical service community together as a forum. Manufacturers are no longer able to say, “This problem does not exist anywhere else.”

24×7: Have there been any drawbacks?

Kauffman: The biggest drawback is the personal attacks that I occasionally see from one technician to another.

24×7: What drives you to continue running this?

Kauffman: My LOVE for the biomedical profession.

24×7: Do you have any other goals for it?

Kauffman: My only thought is to someday turn Biomedtalk into a group of professionals who are more of an unofficial governing body. For example, I would love to tell JCAHO or DOH that the members of Biomedtalk have approved the PM intervals that we have established at our institution.

For more details about Biomedtalk membership and other specifics, visit the Web site at www.biomedtalk.org.