The chance to make a real difference

By Laurie Bonner

Steve Campbell is not a stranger to change. In fact, he arrived in the HTM field after a fairly radical mid-career switch. “I earned my degree in business administration and fell in love with journalism in college,” Campbell says. He spent much of the 1980s and ’90s working as a newspaper reporter. “I worked my way up to become a Washington correspondent—meeting presidents and covering healthcare, defense, and environmental issues,” he says. But by 1999, he says, he was ready for his next challenge.  

So when he saw a job posting for an editorial job with BI&T, AAMI’s journal, he took the plunge, applied, and was hired. Campbell has now been with AAMI for 20 years, working his way up the ranks as senior director of publication, vice president, senior vice president, and then COO. “Working at AAMI has been a lot of fun because the issues are important and the membership is fantastic,” he says. “And you can make a real difference.”

The More Things Change

The healthcare landscape has changed tremendously over the past two decades, with landmark research achievements pushing the development of new therapies, new technologies and new connectivity. “I’ve seen technology change significantly,” Campbell says, “with an increasing role of IT in healthcare. We’ve come a long way in terms the professional identity of healthcare technology management.”

And current trends are going to carry health technology in new directions in the foreseeable future, Campbell says. One major innovation: Changes to the healthcare environment itself. “Medical care is increasingly being brought to patients in their homes, and comprehensive clinical services that were once unavailable in remote areas of the country are now accessible via telemedicine and remote monitoring.” Health technology, Campbell says, plays a major role in that transformation. “There will also be a larger emphasis on virtual reality [VR] and artificial intelligence [AI] as technology evolves.”

Human factors will need to adapt to keep up with these technological changes. “HTM professionals will need to become educated and accustomed to these new technologies,” Campbell says. “HTM professionals need to continue to change their thinking and definition of what they now consider a traditional medical device. It’s important to think outside the box when it comes to cybersecurity as well. As healthcare systems expand their reach, they also sacrifice security since these devices are now operating on a patient’s home network.” 

That said, Campbell adds, “in some ways we are facing some of the same issues that we did a decade ago, including the importance of reinforcing the value of the HTM field, educational and training challenges, and standardization.” 

Even so, one issue—the aging-out of the HTM field—is arguably more pressing than it’s ever been. And replacing those who are retiring will inevitably lead to more changes in the HTM field, Campbell posits. “With the mass retirements predicted to occur in the next 10 years, there will be a significant number of professionals who are new to the field,” Campbell says. “HTM professionals will need training in cybersecurity and IT systems, for sure. And, of course, the field will also have to stay up-to-date with the changing technologies and the inception of VR and AI.”

They’ll need other skills, too. Three that Campbell specifically lists are leadership, strategic planning, and financial skills. After all, he says, the healthcare landscape has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. “Many hospitals are now part of large healthcare systems that are striving to deliver care more efficiently and safely,” Campbell says. That’s why he believes it’s critical for HTM professionals to understand how their roles fit into the overall strategy of the organization—particularly from a financial perspective.

Achieving CBET certification is one way to stand out, as well as help to ensure that the profession can rise to future needs. Fortunately, Campbell says, the number of HTM professionals who are taking certification exams appears to be on the rise. “Many seek certification for personal career advancement,” Campbell says. “Others are looking to fulfill the certification requirements of their hospital systems or institutions for employment or promotion.”

Regardless of the impetus behind it, achieving certification can have a real impact on career success, Campbell maintains. “Results from a recent survey of certified professionals showed that organizations benefit from certification, citing lower costs and longer employee retention,” he says. When an HTM employer places importance on the professional development of their technicians through certification, it also benefits patient care by ensuring qualified technicians and engineers.”

Giving Back

In 2019, in addition to his duties as AAMI’s COO, Steve Campbell also became executive director of the AAMI Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding the professional development of healthcare technology professionals. “Our mission is to help strengthen the knowledge of health technology professionals,” he says. “We have ambitious plans to grow our scholarship, grant, and awards programs.” 

Under Campbell’s guidance, the Foundation will work toward developing an HTM workforce that will be equipped to meet future needs. Offering scholarships to potential HTM students is one cornerstone of that endeavor. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve awarded nearly $100,000 to students under the Michael J. Miller Scholarship Program to help them pay for their education in the HTM field,” he says.

“In 2020, in honor of the program’s 10th anniversary, we launched a ‘10 for the 10th’ scholarship campaign. We’ll be awarding $3,000 scholarships to 10 HTM professionals in 2020.” AAMI will also pay the way for the scholarship winners to attend the 2020 AAMI Exchange, which takes place from June 12-15 in New Orleans.

“To be candid, my heart is with our scholarship program. That’s because 100% of the money raised goes directly to some amazing HTM professionals entering the field,” says Campbell. “It’s a real joy to meet these students at the AAMI Exchange each year. They are very appreciative of the support, and they get a chance to meet the generous supporters of the scholarship program.”

Campbell promises more to come on this front: “We’re evaluating scholarships for the education and training of HTM professionals and to help schools purchase equipment. There’s a lot of great things down the road!”

Another leg of the AAMI Foundation’s work centers on its grant program, which supports research into the safe use of health technology. “The Mary K. Logan Research Grant is named after AAMI’s former president and CEO, Mary Logan, who championed patient safety initiatives,” Campbell says. “The grant program seeks to stimulate and fund studies that will improve patient safety and help ensure that healthcare technology promotes positive patient and healthcare provider outcomes.” 

Recipients are eligible to receive up to $80,000 in funding for their projects. “Recently, we awarded grants to five investigators who have addressed issues related to organizing and developing categories of device alarms that are most important to convey through sound, as well as the development of consensus- and evidence-based guidelines for the appropriate use of monitoring in hospitalized children,” Campbell says. The AAMI Foundation has also subsidized research into improving medication administration safety via smart infusion pumps as well as developing and evaluating a machine-learning algorithm to detect pediatric weight entry errors.

Getting Involved

Any initiative to help the HTM field develop for the future will benefit from the support of its current professionals—and there are many ways to get involved, Campbell says. About 15 years ago, he helped create AAMI’s Technology Management Council (TMC), a group designed to raise the public profile of the HTM profession and to advise AAMI’s executive staff on issues important to the industry. One of the TMC’s first initiatives—and one that continues today—was HTM Week. This year’s program runs May 17-23.

“When I helped organize the TMC, I knew we would be judged by results,” Campbell says. “Frankly, we wanted some quick wins to visibly show our support. Creating a national HTM appreciation week was a no-brainer. Yes, it’s symbolic. But it’s also an important opportunity each year to stand back and say, ‘thank you’ to HTM professionals, to take a bow, and also use it as an opportunity to promote the field.” 

Other promotional efforts include the popular #IamHTM social media campaign. “The ongoing campaign has been at the heart of our efforts to increase the visibility of the HTM field, but we are also undertaking so much more under the leadership of the TMC and AAMI’s vice president of HTM, Danielle McGeary,” Campbell says. “HTM in a Box,” AAMI’s new online presentation designed to educate and entice middle-school and high-school students to the HTM profession, is an example of this. “We’re also taking a lead in creating an apprenticeship program, modernizing our website presence, and updating other resources,” Campbell reveals.

The TMC has also been instrumental in developing the HTM Levels Guide and other career resources as well as improving access to The Joint Commission. “The TMC has played a vital role in almost everything AAMI has undertaken in the HTM arena, including the name of the field,” Campbell says. “It’s a fantastic group of HTM leaders, who help guide AAMI staff on important HTM issues as well as provide leadership.”

So, what can you do to help? Lots, according to Campbell. “AAMI has a relatively small staff—just 45 employees—but it has a big reach and a major commitment to HTM,” he says. “We strive to take on projects that will have the greatest impact and provide the most resources to the HTM community. We develop resources that HTM professionals can use locally at their schools or during career days to promote HTM as a career option. All of the HTM resources—available at IamHTM.org—are free and meant to help HTM professionals promote the field.” 

But those resources are only effective for those who actually use them. “We need as many ambassadors of the field as possible,” Campbell says. “All of us face time pressures, including family life and work demands. But I urge everyone to find the time to take an active role in your field, whether it’s writing an article, promoting the field to a school, joining an AAMI committee, or participating in your local HTM association. Get involved!” He knows it’s cliché to say everyone can make a difference—“but you really can.”

Editor’s note: 24×7 is always looking for great contributed content. Want to write for us? E-mail editor@24x7mag.com.

Laurie Bonner is associate editor of 24×7 Magazine. Questions and comments can be directed to lbonner@medqor.com.