panama technical facility

Training facility in Panama benefiting hospitals, patients

A Technical Service Training Center in Panama City, Panama is strategically located to improve hospitals across Central America. 


Earlier this year, Medtronic opened a 3,500-square-foot Technical Service Training Center in Panama City, Panama. Strategically located, the new training center is more accessible and convenient for biomedical technicians traveling from countries in Central and South America.

Prior to the Panama facility opening, technicians had to apply for visas to train in the United States—a costly and time-consuming process. Now, having a facility that provides training closer to home provides significant cost savings for hospitals, distributors, and medical equipment companies in Latin America. 

At the Panama facility, technicians receive specialized hands-on training in the maintenance and repair of Medtronic ventilators, as well as electrosurgery equipment. That kind of experience is invaluable, according to Dale Munson, a manager for Service & Biomedical Training, Surgical Innovations, for Medtronic, who recently led a training session at the new center.

"I believe strongly in the importance of hands-on technical training," he says. "It gives the students experience with equipment that is used in normal hospital environments."

In the past, technicians and clinicians had to schedule training around what was offered in the U.S., often waiting months to attend a session. The new center means training is more readily available, and sessions at the Panama facility are conducted in Spanish, eliminating a language barrier for technicians.

Effective training reduces equipment downtime, benefits patients

The in-person training provides technicians the opportunity to see how a piece of equipment is used when it functions properly. 'That's key,' says Juan Vásquez, technical service manager for Medtronic in the Caribbean and Central America, 'because most services calls result in a diagnosis of user error, not broken or flawed mechanics.'


A team effort

Behind the scenes, teams are ensuring products work well which, in turn, helps deliver better outcomes for patients. 

"It's not actually the equipment itself that's the problem," he explains. "It's how people use it." According to Vazquez, if a technician can diagnose user error easily, it means he can get a piece of equipment back up and running faster.

That behind-the-scenes work ensures a product works well, notes Munson. Which, in turn, helps deliver better outcomes for patients and the providers treating them.

During a recent training session, Munson discussed the technological advantages of a series of new electrosurgical generators with his students. The students then moved into another part of the center, where they immediately started handling the equipment to better understand how it works.

The new facility also has the capability to offer interruption-free training, such as the ability to practice handling equipment alarms.

"With the training, the students feel confident to maintain the generators," says Munson.

While reducing user error is a big part of the training offered, when equipment actually does need to be fixed, organizations can bring it directly to the Panama facility for repairs. That means no more shipping it back and forth to the U.S., which costs time and money.

The Panama facility is just one of the training centers for providers and technicians that Medtronic has established in recent years to help expand access to care and improve patient outcomes. Other centers include ones in China, Korea, India, Turkey, and Brazil. Between 2014 and 2016, the company increased its investment in education for medical professionals by nearly 60 percent, and in FY2016 invested $152.4 million for capacity building and training for medical professionals, and putting $20.3 million toward patient education.