Should BMETs Maintain and Service Medical Imaging Beds / Tables?
The title of this article asks a fairly straightforward question: Should biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) service or maintain imaging system beds and tables instead of imaging engineers? The expected answer is a simple yes or no, but most people in the medical imaging community would be uncomfortable answering without a “but …” or adding some sort of qualifying statement to their answer.
What initially appears to be a simple question of who should be assigned this job duty is actually more of a question about an imaging facility’s current operational strategies, staff workloads and culture, departmental structure, and imaging team competencies. Each of these disparate elements is a key consideration when deciding whether or not BMETs should service and maintain imaging system beds and tables at your hospital or imaging center.
With that thought in mind, let’s look at four key considerations for determining who should be responsible for the care of MRI and CT system beds/tables and why understanding each of them is vital to determining the most appropriate answer to our question.
1. Operational Strategies
All healthcare organizations strive for excellence in patient care—at least they should—but they can vary widely in how they attempt to achieve it. For example, one facility may be focused on self-sufficiency and seek to keep as many functions as possible in-house without overburdening their imaging engineers. Another may believe that any equipment maintenance or service is best left in the hands of OEM or ISO service personnel. While yet another may be transitioning to an in-house service model and sees the handoff of bed and table servicing as just another step toward that goal.
Consider the strategic direction of your organization before deciding which course of action is best. If the strategic direction is in flux or unclear, then this consideration might have limited value. In that case, lean more heavily on the other three considerations to determine which option is most appropriate for your facility. And it may be wise to develop a contingency plan as well, should the organization change course unexpectedly.
2. Workloads and Culture
Workload considerations will have a major impact on your decision, so evaluate this carefully. At the same time, scrutinize the value of balancing workloads in light of the culture and attitudes within your organization.
Determine who has the capacity to take on the responsibility. An overworked engineer may welcome the assistance and, in turn, the BMET may see servicing a table as another step toward becoming an engineer themselves. Conversely, an overworked technician may consider it an additional burden to contend with while the engineer who’s done their job right may want to hold onto tasks that help round out their workday.
Keep in mind that the best of intentions to balance workloads can go awry when the organization’s culture doesn’t support the decision. Engineers may see a handoff of responsibilities as a commentary on the quality of their work or as an intrusion into their professional sphere of influence. On the other hand, they may welcome the opportunity to mentor a BMET into the next stage of their career.
The same pitfalls exist for BMETs. Some may consider the additional responsibilities to be outside the scope of their job description while others would welcome the challenge and opportunity for growth.
3. Departmental Structure
Look at the structure of your imaging department. Is it highly stratified and roles are clearly defined? If so, then absorbing the responsibility of bed and table maintenance into the role of a BMET might not make sense since this has traditionally fallen under the umbrella of engineer responsibilities. If the structure is relatively flat and many job descriptions overlap, the environment should be more conducive to bucking tradition and creating more blended roles.
If your organization has no in-house engineer, this may be the ideal opportunity to save money by pulling the task away from an OEM or ISO. Plus, it has the added benefit of planting the seed of an onsite maintenance team.
4. Imaging Team Competencies
This final consideration is almost glaringly obvious, but it could be the deciding factor in whether or not your BMETs should maintain and service your CT and MRI beds. Do your BMETs have the inherent skills, existing knowledge, and general predisposition necessary to do the job? If so, third-party coursework and/or on-the-job training will quickly get them up to speed on performing these tasks. If not, attempting to hand off these responsibilities may only create frustration for those involved and poor equipment performance for your organization. The result will be excessive downtime, lost revenue, and a lower-quality patient experience.
Making Wise Decisions in Times of Change
Sometimes the most straightforward questions can have the least straightforward answers. Regarding who’s best qualified to maintain and service imaging system beds and tables, the answer is an unequivocal “it depends.” The key to finding the best answer for your organization is to address the four considerations, evaluate the pros and cons of each based on your circumstances, and then make an informed decision. Will it be the right one? Only time will tell … but rest assured that it won’t be permanent. As the Greek Philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” The medical imaging landscape is changing rapidly as healthcare priorities shift and imaging technology continues to evolve. The best thing you can do is to stay informed, connect with experienced professionals, and reevaluate your decisions regularly.
For more insight into current trends and developing your department, imaging team, and in-house maintenance program to meet them, explore our other blog posts. And if you’re unfamiliar with our “build-from-within” 360° Solution, check it out. It’s exclusive to Technical Prospects and provides a clear path to independence, growth, and success for your organization.