IT collaboration enhances clinical engineering effectiveness

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ORLANDO–In many healthcare institutions, there exists a virtual firewall between the clinical engineering/biomedical technology services (CE/BTS) and information technology/information services (IT/IS) departments. This is a structural deficit, according to Kenneth Maddock, corporate director of biomedical technology services for the Baylor Healthcare System in Dallas.

“In the real world, the complexities of tomorrow’s connectivity and the demands of interoperability will blow away such concepts, replacing them with a new paradigm, based on collaboration,” he said.

Maddock explored the differences and complementing strengths of the two professions in creating a seamless thread from the patient to the electronic health record (EHR) in a presentation on Sunday morning at the 2008 HIMSS conference.

He expounded on the structure-independent capabilities each group brings to the table for the other. For example, the CE division is very knowledgeable about medical devices and understands the patient-critical importance of response time to a customer issue with this technology.

IT departments are cognizant of mission-critical applications, and are generally well-staffed and budgeted in comparison to CE groups, according to Maddock. Therefore, as at Baylor, it makes sense for the divisions to collaborate. IT brings a comprehensive knowledge of technology to the table, while CE offers a thorough understanding of clinical practice to the synergy between the teams.

Maddock said the goals (and outcomes) of collaboration are:

  • Less confusion for the customer
  • Improved response time for service
  • Better handling of complex calls
  • More effective repairs
  • Better technology planning
  • Reduced costs

For example, at Baylor two clinical departments seeking to upgrade their respective radiology information system and laboratory information system were looking at products that would add approximately 27 servers to the data cluster—for which there was no physical space available. With tight collaboration between CE and IT, this issue was identified early on in the technology selection process, before a commitment had been made.

Maddock said he was not looking to tear down the expertise of knowledge that has developed in the independent silos of the two organizations; rather, he is looking to open corridors between the knowledge silos so that information can flow smoothly from one group to another.

“Our role is to help select the right technology that will facilitate the best care, to implement that technology, and to support that technology,” he said.