Samantha Jacques: Clinical Engineering Has Crucial Role in Facilities Projects

For the past few years, AAMI, ACCE, HIMMS, and others have been working to bridge the gap between the clinical or biomedical engineering (or healthcare technology management) department and the information technology (IT) department within a hospital or hospital system. We continue to learn how valuable a relationship is between CE and IT and how to work better across the departments to enhance safety and improve patient care.

I’m here to tell you IT isn’t the only department that clinical engineers need a closer relationship with. While the wave of new technology in medical devices has changed the way with work with IT, it also has changed the way this technology is designed, installed, and implemented within a hospital system.

Facilities planning and construction departments play major roles in design, architecture, building, and “go-live” launches for any changes to or expansion of hospital or outpatient locations. This usually involves a team of architects, project managers, construction managers, low-voltage consultants, equipment planners, vendors, end users, IT personnel, and, of course, clinical engineers.  As size and scope of project varies, the number and type of participants may vary.

I know what you’re thinking: What can go wrong if CE departments aren’t involved in construction projects? Really, how bad can it be? I’ve got tons to do. Can’t they just figure it out without me?

I’d turn that around and ask how many of you have walked into a new space to find that the devices CE is tasked with installing aren’t the right make/model of equipment, the equipment doesn’t fit, the power/data/plumbing is in the wrong place, or the design just doesn’t work for end-user workflow. Such scenarios are exactly why clinical engineers need to be included. We can resolve all of these problems before the space is even built!

Next, think about how complex the systems have become. Installing a monitoring or imaging system today needs not only the clinical engineers, but also several IT teams, such as networking, server management, and integration to EMR. The right number and type of infrastructure has to be available and configured. Ensuring a successful go-live for new locations and new technology today requires a lot of work to ensure the space meets the needs of the technology and the clinician.

Finally, consider a space after it is turned over to CE to maintain during day-to-day operations. How easy is it to access the installed system to do preventive and reactive maintenance? Do you have easy access or do you have to disassemble the entire device to get to what you need?

All of these examples show us that clinical engineering department should have a strong tie to all facilities projects for several reasons, including:

  • Standardization and selection of equipment
  • Placement of furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FFE)
  • Workflow design
  • Installation, testing, and commissioning of complex technology
  • Transition to operations

You might now be asking yourself, “How can I learn more?” Come to the AAMI Annual Conference & Expo in Austin, TX, this June. I’ll elaborate on how the CE and facilities departments can work together more closely. I look forward to seeing you, taking your questions, and learning about your own experiences.

Samantha Jacques, PhD, FACHE, is director of clinical engineering at Penn State Health in Hershey, PA.

One thought on “Samantha Jacques: Clinical Engineering Has Crucial Role in Facilities Projects

  1. Putting on my old man hat, I will point out CE (or whatever you wish to call it) and facilities interactions have long been a subject of discussion, and that interaction predates anyone ever having mentioned IT. More generally, cooperation among all departments should be the expected norm and not rejected as irrelevant or too busy.

    A further comment on “standardization.” Things should be standardized only when that which is standardized is the best solution for each set of users. Standardization that involves equipment or other choices that do not best meet at least some users’ (and patients’) needs should be avoided. Ease of maintenance should not overcome clinical appropriateness.

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