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Clinical engineering in an age of reform

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | May 30, 2013
From the May 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Steve Yelton: Six years later IT skills in addition to the tried and true: electronics, optics, mechanical systems, networking systems, biomedical instrumentation, anatomy and physiology, etc. are still necessary in order for biomeds to stay relevant. In addition to this, there were over 1,200 skills that we received when we asked professionals in the field what skills they felt a biomed should possess.

Heidi Horn: Pat is correct on this point. IT skills are absolutely imperative to being able to support and make recommendations on today’s clinical technology. At some point in the future, we no longer will differentiate between CE and clinical IT. Eventually, Healthcare Technology Management will encompass all clinical technology inclusive of the medical devices and the servers, software, middleware and networks that interface with those devices. I realize this is a controversial statement and creates angst among traditional BMETs and IT folks. I am not suggesting we’ll all be replaced….not if we stay current with the changes in health care technology and the needs of our hospitals. Those who are willing and able will adapt and even advance in the future. Those that refuse to learn and adapt will meet the same fate as the dinosaur. BMETs no longer have many years to prepare for this change. It’s happening now and happening very quickly.

In addition to IT skills and the traditional skills needed to be an effective BMET, I also would add project management skills are now a necessity. Medical devices are no longer planned for, purchased or installed without involving a multitude of stakeholders. HTM professionals must be able to work with (and often lead) these groups (many of whom have conflicting agendas and priorities) to ensure the devices and systems meet the clinical and technology needs of the organization and are installed on time and within budget.

Steve Vanderzee: What we work on now on devices is different. In the past, a feature on the device needing to be fixed would be a component or an assembly that failed. We still have equipment failing and we still repair it, but now we find ourselves spending more time on other problems —this device isn’t connected anymore, it isn’t sending images to PACS, why can’t I download this file?

All the systems that used to be proprietary and standalone are now integrated with the health information system. Now I can’t just go and set up my own server, I have to have a relationship with the IT counterpart, who maintains the server closet or server room. It’s a relationship journey. It’s like, why would I let someone into my server room? Who are you, what do you do? In the past, we just didn’t know each other. We kind of worked independently and were happy with that and it worked well. But the tech has evolved and integration has evolved.

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