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Clinical Engineering: Where technology and patient care meet

Toronto, May 27, 2016

By Kate Manicom

Vincent Lam explains how equipment will be moved
In the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, Vincent Lam, manager of Clinical Engineering, explains how equipment will be moved to the new Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower when it is completed in 2017. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Anyone who has moved a piano knows it can’t simply be packed in a truck, transported to its new home and unloaded, ready to play. A special mover is needed to transport it correctly and tune it on arrival. But if moving a piano is challenging, try moving an intensive care unit or ambulatory clinic.

As part of St. Michael’s 3.0, many units, clinics and offices are moving into renovated spaces inside the existing hospital or to the Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower in 2017. Although some moves simply involve packing up computers, files and furniture, those that involve relocating patient equipment are more complex and require the assistance of the hospital’s Clinical Engineering Department.

The department is divided into two groups, biomedical and dialysis technology, and is responsible for applying medical technology to enhance patient care. While the dialysis team specializes in hemodialysis systems, members of the biomedical team combines their backgrounds in engineering, IT and physiology to understand and implement both the clinical needs and technological specifications of every apparatus in the hospital.

With the exception of medical imaging equipment, the department manages all phases of the life cycle of technical equipment in the hospital, from purchasing, to maintaining, to deciding when it’s time to replace. The biomedical team helps to determine technical specifications for new equipment before ordering, based on clinical needs. It also provides feedback and training to the people who will be using the equipment, such as clinical staff or the patient transport team. And, it plays a key role in relocating equipment in the hospital.

For any move, planning is key. Vincent Lam, manager of Clinical Engineering, said a huge amount of preparatory work takes place to ensure there are no impacts on patient care, particularly for equipment used in critical care, such as the monitoring equipment used in the ICU.

   
“It’s like an assembly line. Each person has their own role that’s coordinated well ahead of time.” - Vincent Lam, manager, Clinical Engineering

“We ensure that back-up equipment is already installed, tested and functioning,” said Lam. “Network connections, like those needed for monitoring equipment in the ICU, are established. Logistically, we coordinate with clinical staff to ensure the timing of a move works for them. And we work with the manufacturers of equipment to ensure everything is installed correctly.”

With planning in place, when it’s time for an actual move, the work is quite straightforward. Typically three to four technical staff are needed over a couple of days.

Lam is quick to acknowledge that they couldn’t do it without the support of many other groups in the hospital. Clinical staff, Infection Prevention and Control, IT, Planning and Housekeeping all have important functions in ensuring equipment is disinfected, connected and ready to be used in the right space.

“It’s like an assembly line,” said Lam. “Each person has their own role that’s coordinated well ahead of time.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.