AAMI: Healthcare technology management dawns as a new profession

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SAN ANTONIO After an intensive two-day forum to better define the evolving role of clinical and biomedical engineering, industry leaders came to the conclusion that healthcare technology management is the new name for the profession, which was explained in a presentation at the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) conference & expo on June 26.

Lawrence W. Hetzler, CCE, MBA, vice president of clinical engineering at Aramark in Charlotte, N.C., explained that the two-day forum, held earlier this year, included a lot of varied opinions. However, the group “worked hard” to create a unified vision by assessing the responsibilities of the field, while also trying to look at the role from an external perspective.

The forum created an initial mission: “We expect to manage technology, throughout its lifecycle, whatever the technology of the future looks like and wherever it is utilized in a manner that is related to healthcare.”

However, co-presenter Karen Waninger, CBET, clinical engineering director at Community Health Network in Indianapolis, said that the profession does not (yet):

  • Establish individual titles or scope of services;
  • Define minimum standard educational requirements;
  • Specify what equipment or systems any individual department will be responsible for in the future. “Therefore, the term is meant to be broad and inclusive, and is not intended to be elitist or exclusive,” she said.
  • Specify pay ranges.

“We are not aiming to redefine clinical engineers, biomedical engineers and technicians or the services they provide,” Waninger said. “We are trying to build an umbrella over all the professions so that anybody can recognize the scope of our responsibilities.

“The hope,” she continued, “is that we can be successful with creating a unified vision.” If this occurs, Waninger suggested that the new directed focus could lead to improved clinical outcomes; reduced waste; better quality, availability and integration of medical equipment; and better partnerships with and training for clinicians.

During the discussion period of the presentation, several audience members, including William J. Cannella, CBET, of the University Health System in San Antonio, expressed concern that “healthcare” might be too specific to the provider setting, as opposed to research or clinical lab setting.

“For instance, our biomedical engineering team is heavily involved with telemedicine, but innovators in the field will embrace the push to home health, so does the term distinctly tie us to the hospital?” Cannella asked.

Also, clinical engineering veteran James O. Wear, CCE, questioned whether the term “technology” aligns the field too much with devices or equipment. He noted the need for their role in drugs and procedures, as well as the potential future of the nanotechnology and body area networks.

Along the same lines, Mark E. Bruley, CCE, of ECRI Institute, noted that the healthcare industry spends 10 times more money annually on disposable medical devices, than capital investment, and asked if those devices are included in the term “technology.”

While some audience members openly expressed such concerns about terminology confusion, the group embraced the unifying and leadership implications of the new title.

AAMI is hosting an open comment period on the new profession name until Aug. 2