This piece was originally published in the May 2016 issue of ei, the magazine of the electroindustry.
Jim Nestel, Manager Service Projects and Installations, Hitachi Medical Systems
Over the past century, the miracle of medical imaging has allowed for previously impossible insights into the structure and function of the human body. Rapid advances in science and technology have given us some of the most complex medical devices ever invented.
Computed tomography (CT) imaging uses radiation emitted from thousands of pounds of complex electronics spinning around the human body at more than 60 mph. Ultrasound uses soundwaves generated by electronics which are pressed against the body. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses high-powered electromagnets 7,500 times stronger than Earth’s magnetic field, immersed in cryogenic liquids to view soft tissue inside the human body. While these technologies are widely available and routinely prescribed, their operation and use is not to be taken lightly.
Rigorous training aimed at developing a nuanced understanding of these devices is critical for anyone opening them up for purposes of maintenance or service. Properly maintaining them requires a detailed understanding of each component as well as the overall function of the machine. Unfortunately, not all medical imaging devices are always properly serviced; this has potentially significant implications for patient safety and diagnostic efficacy.
What would happen if the transducer on an ultrasound machine were not properly calibrated? Or if the radiation calibration on a CT scanner were performed incorrectly? Or if the super-cooled liquids in an MRI weren’t properly vented? One can imagine the potential harm to patient or physician. Further, what if the image from the scan comes out blurry? Or if a lesion is missed because it is obscured by an incorrect part? This would mean more time and money spent getting tests for the patient or, worse, a missed diagnosis.
One way to avoid these problems is to certify that the people servicing medical imaging devices are properly trained and usereliable, compatible parts. There are several key components of proper servicing:
- Perform regular preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance helps to ensure optimal system performance and identify potential failures before they occur.
- Keep software up to date. Up-to-date software improves performance and reliability.
- Use proper parts. Parts that are sourced from qualified suppliers, meet all original equipment manufacturer’s requirements, and have the latest firmware revisions protect against system failure and injuries.
- Properly train service technicians. A good service technician is capable of proper installation and calibration of delicate and dangerous parts as well as proper maintenance and inspection.
Placing Personal Safety First
Today, only manufacturers registered with the Food and Drug Administration are required to meet a clear set of regulations outlining an extensive quality management program intended to make certain that equipment operates safely and reliably. Otherwise, almost anyone could start a business servicing complex medical equipment with no formal training, quality program, or parts control system.
If you are boarding a flight, don’t you want the plane’s mechanics to have been properly trained? There’s no reason for complex, high-powered medical imaging devices to be held to a different standard. When you or a loved one has a medical scan, don’t you expect that the device has been maintained by properly trained personnel using appropriately sourced parts? Would you find it acceptable to be scanned by a device that has been maintained with no quality standards or regulations?
The MITA Service Committee is currently developing a standard that clearly outlines what must be included in a proper servicing program. The standard will help medical facilities understand what they need to require of their service providers to maintain safe and effective medical imaging devices. The goal is that all service providers meet the same standard to best ensure patient safety and device performance. We want to see the proper results every time a patient is imaged to provide an accurate and timely diagnosis. Such a program will protect the interests of both the patient and medical facility.
Mr. Nestel chairs the MITA Service Committee.