There was a recent LinkedIn chat asking the question: “Which was better…outsourced…or in house Clinical Engineering Services?”
Of course, that question lead to numerous responses….many with very strong polarizing opinions, and horror stories. The chat hit a spark and has ongoing for months and will probably continue for a long time to come.
The reality is that this is not an easy question to answer! The answers vary from hospital to hospital and their individual set of circumstances. For example, if a hospital has lost their key Clinical Engineering manager, or the in house department is not functioning well for some reason, outsourcing can be the quickest and easiest way to “right the ship”, getting the service operations in order and cost under control. However, like any other contract… it has to be managed! The expectations and long term hospital strategic planning still need to be thought out.
All that being said, the service landscape over the past 15 years has changed dramatically. Before, in house programs had difficulty getting access to reliable manufacturer parts, or access to training. That is not the case these days. An in house program has the same access to these things as an outsourced program does. With access to the internet, getting parts has become much easier. There are dozens of parts companies…and it seems like a new is starting up every day. The manufacturers have created more access to training….but know that they are training your in house people differently than they are training their specialist. There is also now great access to third party training as well. Plus, as manufacturers lay off their higher-paid, more experienced technicians, the availability of trained technicians for hire is there.
To further complicated “the question: to outsource or not” – most departments “outsource” some things. In the last few years, there has been significant grow in the available of good reliable regional Imaging equipment service companies. There are companies that just specialists in ultrasound, and companies that specialize in nuclear medical, anesthesia, respiratory and laboratory equipment.
It comes down to having the resources to manage the service program properly. If the hospital can find a competent Clinical Engineering manager, politically supported, who can help the hospital make intelligent “make –buy” decisions about service, for each modality of equipment they need to maintain, they are doing what an outsourced company can do. This takes partnership with the clinical directors, and a supportive leadership team to make this happen….but when it does happen…the hospital has the best of both worlds. They have outsourced the service that can be handled in the region, managing the process, while continuing to meet their own hospital culture and strategic goals. This is a tough order to fill. See why some hospital’s choice to outsource?