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5 big health care ideas from AAMI 2013

by Nancy Ryerson, Staff Writer | June 06, 2013
Around 1,500 clinical engineers, biomeds and other health care management professionals descended on sunny Long Beach, Calif. for three days packed with educational sessions, booths from more than 200 visitors and of course, nightly happy hours in the exhibit hall.

Attendees returned from the conference with more than a tan, as sessions, symposiums and booths offered a range of useful information. Here are the top five themes we spotted on the show floor and in the conference rooms packed with professionals over the course of the weekend.

1. Alarm management steals the show
Alarm management took up six educational sessions, and was mentioned in more. Long-time show attendees said they had never seen more sessions on a single topic. With the attention that alarm fatigue dangers have been getting from ECRI Institute and the Joint Commission, it makes sense that experts and vendors alike focused on the topic.

"Ignoring alarms has become 'normalized deviance,'" said George Mills at a Joint Commission update.

2. Biomed and IT departments unite
As more and more medical equipment like infusion pumps and hospital beds are decked out with wireless capabilities and other high-tech features, clinical engineering and HIT departments are being brought closer and closer together. One section of educational sessions was called "The Big Picture" and covered topics like "IT and Cybersecurity Challenges in a Medical Device World." Even the talk at the AAMI awards luncheon covered EHR and its impact on patient safety.

3. Service from afar
The idea of remote service was another common offering out on the show floor. Again, thanks to high tech upgrades, equipment problems often stem from computer problems. Those kinds of errors can be viewed remotely, saving service companies time. Remote service can also be provided to developing countries that may have fewer technicians around.

"The days of sending technicians out with manuals are over," said Jeff Moffatt, field marketing specialist at Draeger Medical, which showed its latest remote service package at the show. "Now it can all be downloaded."

4. "I know that pump is here somewhere..."
RTLS (Real-time locating system) was again a popular product at AAMI. One vendor describes its value by comparing it to the ability to find your keys using Wifi or infrared signals. But with RTLS packages, finding items like infusion pumps can save nurses precious time and keep facilities from purchasing equipment they already have - and that adds up to significant savings.

"One of our customers estimates that they'll save $2.7 million over the next 10 years, just by setting it up with IV pumps," said Sheryl Sheets, national sales manager at Versus Technology.

5. We're all in this together.
With all of the regulatory challenges impacting health care as a whole, it was clear at AAMI that the lines between departments are beginning to fade. For everyone in health care, from technicians to nurses to CIOs and CEOs, the emphasis is on saving money while improving patient care.

At a breakfast symposium, Kenneth Maddock, VP of facility support services at Baylor Health Care System said, "We need to think of ourselves as health care professionals, not just technology experts."

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