By K. Richard Douglas
When traversing the country from the upper midwest down to the south, it is most likely you will pass through Cincinnati, Ohio. It sits just north of the state’s border with Kentucky.
The city, which was home to the nation’s first municipal fire department and first Jewish hospital, is today known as the home of the University of Cincinnati and the location of many fine examples of historic architecture.
When Cincinnati residents have a medical emergency or are suffering from back pain, they head for The Christ Hospital for care. The hospital performed the first ceramic hip replacement in the U.S. in 1982. The hospital is part of a network which includes a Joint Spine Center and other medical care facilities.
The Christ Hospital Health Network (TCHHN) has been treating patients for 125 years. The main hospital campus, Christ Hospital, is located in the Mt. Auburn district of Cincinnati. The hospital has been nationally ranked by U.S. News and World Report among large metro hospitals. It’s also been awarded Magnet recognition for nursing excellence.
Overseeing the health network’s imaging repair and maintenance needs is an imaging team made up of six dedicated specialists. The team is part of the 33-member Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) department, which is an in-house service, restarted in-house in 2012. HTM is part of TCHHN operations division led by the COO. The imaging team reports directly to the director of HTM.
The group’s areas of specialty include CT, MRI, cath lab, ultrasound, general radiology, women’s service, and metabolic imaging/nuclear medicine.
“It is a cross-functional team covering multiple modalities,” says Gregory L. Herr BSEE, MBA, CCE, CHTM, director of the Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) department at TCHHN.
Herr says that his team covers multiple hospital sites: The Christ Hospital, The Joint Spine Center and The Christ Hospital Medical Center–Liberty Township, four ambulatory outpatient centers (AOCs) that are strategically located across the Greater Cincinnati area, and over 100 physician office locations.
“All imaging systems located at these locations are serviced by the HTM imaging team,” he says.
“First call service contracts are used in several specialties as training is completed and experience built. Full service contracts are maintained for specific specialty equipment. These service contracts may be OEM or third-party, based on best value and availability of resources,” Herr says. “[The] imaging team also supports UPS, chillers and equipment integrated with the imaging systems, e.g. injectors, etcetera. Imaging specialists work with the integrated systems team to inventory and track network settings, configurations, and cyber-security.
The department keeps the imaging team members’ skills well-honed through continuous training opportunities.
“Training schools are typically requested when new equipment is purchased. Other schools are budgeted in the expense budget each year and scheduled based on availability and need by the imaging team,” Herr says.
“The imaging team members coordinate and back each other up and can respond to first call for various imaging modalities. The important aspect is to provide continuing education and training to keep them up to date and able to effectively respond to the clinical user needs. Regional and local imaging conferences also are used to keep current with technical advances and alterative support opportunities,” Herr adds.
As part of the HTM department, the imaging team is involved in the planning, decisions and construction of major imaging systems.
“[For] new construction, HTM is intimately involved in the planning and construction of the facilities required for the imaging systems. The imaging team participates in equipment evaluation with their clinical partners when TCHHN is selecting new devices. Over the past five-plus years in-house, TCHHN, has built two hospitals, four AOCs and many renovations inside the main hospital,” Herr says.
While all systems are managed by HTM, the imaging services team has some systems it does not service due to age, specialty and system requirements and those systems may be serviced by OEM or third-parties.
“HTM’s imaging team has trained specialists from OEM and third-party training in CT, MRI, ultrasound, cath/angio labs, general radiology (including X-ray, portables, mobile C-arms, fluoro, CR, DR panels), nuclear medicine, mammography and women’s center equipment,” Herr says.
Repair, maintenance and calibration may be among the imaging team’s more routine duties, but that hasn’t held them back from tackling a number of special projects. Herr says that there have been quite a few since 2011.
The construction of the health network’s Joint Spine Hospital, which was completed in 2015, was a big project. The 120-bed hospital includes 12 ORs, imaging, PT/OT and pain management. Herr says that this project also included a materials management building and an extensive redesign to the main hospital.
Just this year, the imaging team was also involved in the building of The Christ Hospital Medical Center–Liberty Township, which includes an emergency department, labor and delivery, operating room, imaging, cardiology and inpatient and physician offices. The cardiology component included echo, vascular ultrasound and cardiac SPECT in off-site locations.
If this wasn’t enough, the team was also involved with the remodel of a cancer center, which included replacement of linear accelerators, new CT simulators, a new oncology information system and redesign/remodel and expansion of other areas, according to Herr.
In addition to these specialized facilities, the team was involved in the installation of a hybrid cath lab, a fourth EP lab added for ablations and the replacement of another EP lab, the replacement and standardization of more than 23 echo and vascular ultrasound systems, and upgrades of various platforms supporting imaging.
They have also taken on an upgrade of cath labs to the newest platform; lower dose and improved image quality and the replacement of two older MRI systems (not including the additional systems added at new sites).
More recently, they have handled an ongoing CR to DR conversion, ultrasound replacements and upgrades, Windows OS upgrades, cybersecurity assessment of the imaging modalities’ IT components, replacement of two older CT scanners and the replacement of SPECT and SPECT/CT systems.
“Standardization is a priority along with serviceability and user familiarity,” Herr says of many of the projects.
With only six members and several projects, the Christ Hospital Health Network HTM imaging team gets a lot accomplished for patents and clinicians in Cincinnati.