Clinical Engineering: Contract Them Out?

UMass Memorial management is considering contracting out Biomed Engineering (also known as Clinical Engineering) to save the hospital money. If the hospital decides to accept the outsourcing bid, an outside company would take over the maintenance of UMass Memorial Healthcare machines and devices.

The SHARE Biomed Technicians are quite concerned, as you can imagine. If their work is contracted out, some of them might be offered jobs by the outside company and continue to work here at UMass Memorial, but that would be up to the new company. We don't know what the wages or benefits might be. We have been told that the outside vendor would have fewer technicians permanently located on site, and use floats as needed. A number of the Biomed Techs are within a few years of retirement, and are concerned that the new company might not want to hire them. 

The SHARE Biomed Technicians are also quite worried about the quality of work that a third party company would deliver at UMass Memorial. Some of them have worked for third party companies before, and know that the level of commitment to the patients, to the hospital, and to the community is just not the same. Many of them have chosen to work at UMass Memorial because Clinical Engineering here is an in-house operation where they can do their best quality work. Others have seen Clinical Engineering departments elsewhere be contracted out, only to be brought back in-house within a few years because the hospitals’ control over quality was lower and the costs ended up being higher with the third party vendor. 

Trying to Keep the Jobs In-House

SHARE proposed to UMass Memorial that we explore alternatives together before deciding whether to contract out Clinical Engineering. SHARE believes that front-line employees can be deeply involved in solving problems: They are experienced and knowledgeable about the work, and committed to quality patient care and to their hospitals. We believe that if SHARE members and Clinical Engineering managers engage in process improvement together – analyzing the data and the contracts, studying the work flow in a deliberate and thorough way – we may be able to find enough savings to keep the work in-house.

UMass Memorial agreed to give the Biomed Technicians and SHARE the time and the data needed to work on an alternative that saves the hospital money while continuing to provide high quality services. Five SHARE Biomed Techs and several SHARE organizers are meeting with managers from Clinical Engineering and Human Resources to look at how to make their work more efficient and how to use that time to do work that saves the hospital money. Soon the SHARE team will present their proposal. Stay tuned.

A New Direction for the Future

Working together to prevent outsourcing is a positive new challenge for SHARE and UMass Memorial. If we can figure out how to do this work together, many more SHARE employees can have a say about solving problems in their work areas, and UMass Memorial will be better able to deal with all the changes we face in healthcare today and tomorrow.

Please Take Our Survey

The Biomed Techs and SHARE organizers would like to hear from anyone at UMass Memorial who has thoughts – ideas or concerns –  about this. We welcome all ideas, and would very much like to involve end-users in the conversation. Please take a few minutes to fill out our survey at: