Kristina Neal: When Equipment and Construction Timelines Are at Odds

Equipment planning is typically outsourced to consulting companies and can be very costly. However, some facilities have brought equipment planning in house utilizing clinical engineers (CEs) or biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) for the job. This is yet another place where CEs and BMETs need to leverage on-the-job training to broaden their skill sets and knowledge base.

Modern building technology comes in the form of Building Information Models (BIM), where entire structures down to the smallest component are modeled in 3D before they are built in the field. This type of planning allows contractors to manufacture components offsite and to assemble them in the field like tinker toys. It also allows them to run clash detection and resolve conflicts without the extra cost of having to scrap materials.

Due to the time required to build an accurate BIM model, medical equipment decision deadlines are required to happen much further from patient one date than ever before. Contrary to what the BIM process calls for, HTM professionals and clinicians know the best time to choose equipment, in our rapidly evolving field, is as late as possible.

The technology of the medical device industry and the technology of the construction industry are at direct odds. What happens if you choose equipment on the BIM schedule? If you’re lucky, you will choose a technology as the edge of innovation and a new technology will not come out until after you are using the technology you purchased.

However, chances are you may choose technology that will be obsolete by the time patients are treated. Even worse, the technology you design for may no longer be sold, causing scope, schedule and budget impacts.

It begs the question of what applications BIM modeling is appropriate for? Is it possible that it is applicable for 90% of hospital design but not the other 10%? BIM was seen as a great asset for complex rooms like cath labs or IRs, but the medical devices for those rooms are the most at risk for technological obsolescence. So maybe it’s not the right thing to leverage BIM modeling those rooms?

As an industry, how can we work with our project partners to find the right timeline for these important decisions?

Kristina Neal is a clinical engineer at the University of Virginia Health System.

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