I started writing this post in the days before COVID-19 was at the forefront of everyone’s mind. In the days since, the “average” day in the life of a medical device technician has changed dramatically.
While the focus on compliance and safety has always been there for any service related to the medical industry; there has been an increased push on ensuring that technicians on the front lines are maintaining personal safety practices as well. In this time, the utilization of safety checklists to ensure compliance can mean the difference between a technician being available to maintain a piece of equipment, and the lapse of maintenance that results in the equipment being unavailable when it’s needed most.
Oftentimes when working with customers, I observe a disconnect between what managers and the back-office think is happening in the field, and what is actually happening. If anyone has ever seen the show Undercover Boss, you will have witnessed the moment the boss has an epiphany and says something to the effect of “I had no idea XYZ was happening.”
Your service engineers are the face of the company and the trusted adviser to your customers. Understanding what they experience, and the challenges that occur in the day to day of their jobs is paramount to improving all the core service metrics upon which your organization is measured. This information may also be fed back into other areas of the business to improve product design, marketing, and support.
With that said, let’s take a look at a day in the life of an average medical device technician:
Our technician, let’s call him Joe, turns on his mobile device to take a look at the work for the day. Because he has his job laid out for him on a weekly basis, he already has an idea of what his day will look like. Without this insight, he risks being unprepared for the work he must complete—whether that’s due to a lack of tools, parts, or training. He may also run into other constraints like access issues or required certifications. The day before he had to put in overtime to ensure the new machine he installed accepted all the software updates required to be in compliance with privacy laws in his area. There was an issue with the device connecting back through the firewall on the hospital WIFI to download the updates.
After syncing his device, he sees that there are no P1 (high priority) jobs and can go about his day. Most of the work he does right now is installs, as there is increased demand for equipment at the local hospitals, and the company is in the process of replacing all their currently installed end of life devices.
Joe arrives on-site at his first job. He is installing new devices today, and there are limitations to when he can access the area for installation. First, he texts his on-site contact to let them know he has arrived, and they walk him to the secured access location of the equipment. In an ideal world, Joe wishes these sorts of notifications were automated when he crossed a Geofence around the hospital location. It would save him time and allow the customer to meet him more quickly. He wants to be the least disruptive as possible while getting the job done as quickly as possible.
Before he enters he runs through his tools, parts, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) checklists to ensure he has all the required items—leaving and re-entering is not easy, and the hospital has very stringent guidelines to ensure no one that is at risk of unknowingly transmitting a virus is entering the facility at this time. Following these protocols factors into keeping his MTTI (Mean Time to Install) as low as possible.
The tabletop devices he is installing today take about 3 hours to complete. Most of that time is configuration to confirm all the diagnostics are correct and are updated to the latest firmware. The devices also require a high level of pressurized water to function, so he has to ensure the piping is up to standard. While he is waiting for the devices to finish syncing, he fills out his Work Order debrief on the mobile device. Doing so means that he doesn’t have to fill out his paperwork during his kids’ baseball game, a pain that he knows other technicians go through. Once the job is complete, he captures the customer’s signature if he can track them down or enters “NA” if the customer is unavailable and takes a photo on his device to verify his work.
Quick 15-minute stop for a coffee refill.
Joe arrives on-site 15 minutes early for his next scheduled appointment. He doesn’t usually have extra time, but traffic has been minimal today. This extra time allows him to send a couple of emails to his manager that he didn’t have time for yesterday. Two of the customers he visited were running low on the supplied chemicals used for decontamination. They didn’t tell Joe about this, and those machines weren’t part of his Work Order, but he noticed this as he was completing a visual inspection of the worksite. Consumables such as chemicals are standard with the contracts that are mandatory for those machines, and Joe wants to ensure his customers are always supplied, and happy. In the past, Joe had to make a note on some scratch paper and remember to submit his notes to the correct person in the company. Now, he just enters his note in the correct field in his mobile field service management app as soon as he notices it, and the re-order process is automatically routed and fulfilled.
As Joe begins to complete the checklist for his second job of the day, he notices that he is short on the single-use diagnostic test blocks needed to install the equipment and will not have enough to complete his jobs for the rest of the week. He looks at his mobile device to locate the nearest parts, finds some extras stored at another hospital 45 minutes north of his home, and makes a quick call to ensure he can pick them up. This will add an extra 90 minutes of driving to the end of his day, but he starts and ends his day at home, and wants to be prepared for the remainder of the week. He’s asked for the company to implement automatic stock replenishment but needs a service leader to be the supply chain liaison and get some of those recommendations implemented.
For this appointment, Joe is installing 4 tabletop machines at this hospital, in 2 different locations. Luckily, they are all the same equipment, so it doesn’t matter which one he installs in which location; he just needs to make note of the serial number and location to ensure the Installed Base is up to date for future service history tracking. This will allow any engineer that works on this machine in the future to understand what issues the equipment had in the past and what resolutions were applied.
After the first two devices are installed, he takes 30 minutes to eat lunch in his van, catch up on additional emails and requests from his current customers, and then goes back to install the additional two devices in the 2nd building.
Joe now hits the road to drive up north for the test blocks he is picking up. These test blocks are not serialized and are low-value parts, so he just initiates a stock to stock transfer of 4 test blocks from the hospital stocking location to his van stock.
Because he was able to complete his debriefs on his mobile device in the field, he doesn’t have a large backlog of administrative work to complete at the end of his day. Some of the reception can be spotty while he is in the hospital, so he syncs his device to ensure all the work he completed is updated. Then he glances at the calendar for the following day to ensure there are no surprises, and signs off, ready to go again tomorrow.
Reading through this blog, how much of it resonates with what your own medical device techs experience? Do they have the capabilities to be proactive in their work, like Joe? If not, do you wish they did? To gain a deeper understanding of the nuances of working as an engineer in the Med Device field, check out our latest ServiceMax Live episode on LinkedIn: How the Med Device Industry Is Pivoting to Address COVID-19.