This year, I had the opportunity to attend a conference and take part in panel discussions with the main topic of “the customer comes first.” A number of the questions posed to the panel centered on what service organizations could provide to their customers. This is not a new subject—this has been an area of focus for my entire 35-year career in healthcare technology management (HTM). Unfortunately, technology has advanced at a much quicker pace than the ability of service organizations to work together to meet the needs of our customers.
In fact, I believe we as an industry have lost the true identity of the actual customer. We need to get back to the basics and understand that the real customer is the patients being serviced by our healthcare organizations. In the pursuit of revenue generation and market share, service organizations in HTM have developed an “us and them” mentality. This way of doing business is not breaking down the barriers for collaborative relationships. It is creating obstacles that potentially drive up costs and adds to the mistrust between service organizations.
People in the HTM industry are aware of the ongoing discussion about the “right to repair” medical equipment. The decisions around this very important topic could have a significant impact on healthcare organizations that will filter down to the patients. In my opinion, we must consider the potential effect on our patients before restricting service organizations from the right to repair.
To be clear, I am not just talking about considering the potential impact on costs. We must ensure that patient and caregiver safety is included in the evaluation process. I believe most of these areas could be addressed through full adoption of current standards developed by regulatory agencies and guidance from organizations like AAMI. Of course, there are some areas requiring further clarification and these could be covered through the development of a quality service standard or quality measurements system.
Most people within the HTM industry have an opinion about the right to repair, development of a quality measurement system, and certification of personnel, processes, and companies outside of the original equipment manufacturer. I believe there is a place in the market for all service providers, but we do need to implement a system of checks and balances. In doing this, we must make sure we are keeping our patients and caregivers safe but not driving up healthcare costs. All service providers (including independent service organizations, manufacturers, third party, and in-house programs) must work together to create a “win-win” for all parties.
In the long run, this will benefit healthcare as a whole and also create a win for our patients. It’s time to stop working against each other and start working together for the benefit of our “true” customers.
Mike Busdicker, MBA, CHTM, is system director of clinical engineering at Intermountain Healthcare, which is based in Salt Lake City, UT.