Behind the Scenes at Avera McKennan: Biomedical Services

badgesThis summer, we were blessed to have some awesome interns who shared their time and talents with Avera McKennan Hospital & University Center, and at the same time, had a “real life” experience of life in the Marketing Department. One of our interns was Erin Williams, a senior at Augustana College in Sioux Falls. She is a terrific writer, so I asked her to share her talents on our Avera Story Center blog. Best wishes for a great year, Erin!

Erin spent a couple hours with staff in BioMedical Services and wrote this cool blog:

At Avera McKennan, in the 1958 section of the building, the old behavioral health wing is said to be haunted.

“When I was hired they told me the stories about this office, but I just try to ignore the eerie sounds,” joked Steve Kruger, Biomedical Technician. The Avera Biomedical Equipment Support Services team converted the area from a storage room into their workspace, complete with old patient rooms being used as offices. In reality, the main sounds heard in this reclaimed wing on fourth floor are the laughter and good-natured teasing coming from the new inhabitants.

This fun-loving team has no small task. Avera’s Biomedical Equipment Support Services is responsible for every piece of medical equipment within the hospital, and must abide by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines in keeping up with equipment check-ups and testing. While the punishment for not doing so is unknown, Ted and his team perform their task dutifully despite a lack of repercussions.

“It’s not like you ask a cop, ‘what will happen if I go 80 miles above the speed limit?’” Ted McKichan, Manager of BioMedical Equipment Support Services said with a laugh. The team sticks to guidelines in order to provide the best possible service for Avera’s patients.

Tracking Tactics

BioMed uses a computer system to keep track of the numerous pieces of machinery they are responsible for. Every asset at Avera is tracked within the system and identified with a BioMed number. Through sensors in the ceilings of the hospital, the team is able to pinpoint the exact location of the equipment. This same technology is found in the badges worn by employees, allowing the BioMed team to see where each employee is within the hospital at every moment.

The tracking system had some people nervous at first.

“We had some people saying, ‘I don’t want that!’ and I get it – it’s a little like Big Brother,” McKichan said. “But at the end of the day, it’s a great communication tool.”

And it is. The system can show how long a patient has been waiting in the hospital room, and employees can always find the machinery necessary for their tasks.

Glitter Makes Everything Better

With every Avera employee sporting BioMed badges, some would like to stand out from the crowd. One was Alyssa DeJong, Nurse Manager, who requested that her badge have a little bit of sparkle. BioMed staff went out of their way to cater to her wishes, and she was presented with a unique badge accented with glitter. While a small touch, it’s that type of dedication to their job and the wishes of the staff that sets the BioMed team apart.

“They are like rock stars,” DeJong said. “They are definitely friends of nursing, and we’re really good at breaking things,” she said.

McKichan is quick to point out that it really is a mutually beneficial relationship. Without the nurses, those in BioMed wouldn’t have jobs, and without BioMed the nurses’ jobs would be a little tougher.

“We try to help out in every way we can,” he added.

Hey, Big Spender

One way BioMed helps Avera as a whole is the team’s attention to cost savings. McKichan explained just a few of the ways they cut costs for the hospital: an IV pump sent in for maintenance would cost $459, but BioMed can fix it for around $70; a respiratory machine would cost the hospital $305, and the team can fix it for $27; and Avera would pay $27 for a single filter, except BioMed found it from the manufacturer for 27 cents.

These savings are usually done behind the scenes. “It’s invisible, the money we save,” said McKichan.

Not all of their efforts go unnoticed, however. In the 2014 Internal Customer Satisfaction Survey, BioMed received the “Always” category in their levels of work proficiency. “There’s nowhere to go but down,” McKichan joked.

Despite Ted’s jokes, that’s not the direction BioMed is heading. Currently, the team is working to expand into areas of home and lab equipment. This type of outreach is crucial to their goal of continually improving efficiency and cost savings. Much of Avera’s lab machinery is currently under contract maintenance, where hired professionals do the upkeep. The BioMed team hopes to move away from hiring others and instead have that knowledge in-house. With everything they already have on their plate, they aren’t quite there yet. But instead are working toward it steadily.

“It’s really A to Z,” said Ryan Nelson, Biomedical Technician.

“It’s a lot to take care of. But we sleep good at night,” McKichan added.

The personalities on the BioMed floor prove that while they work with machines, the team’s main focus is people.

“This is a people environment, and the whole of health care revolves around people. We’re here to serve. It’s like a big team; everyone has a part to play,” McKichan said

And BioMed is scary good at doing their part.


Fast Facts

·         There are 31,938 pieces of medical equipment in the Avera system, and one third of which is located at Avera McKennan.

·         41,532 work orders were processed throughout Avera in 2013.

·         The BioMed team saved Avera about $700 solely from the few small examples of thrift cited in this post.


By Lindsey Meyers

Director of Communications at Avera McKennan