By Patrick Bernat

When a small group of AAMI staff recently visited a Washington, DC, hospital—MedStar Washington Hospital Center—it was an eye-opening experience.

You couldn’t help but be impressed by the sheer volume of medical equipment maintained by the dedicated team of biomedical equipment technicians. Sure, that’s commonplace for most healthcare technology management (HTM) departments. But there was one moment that was particularly memorable during our visit.

As we walked through the shop, a surgeon stopped by to discuss anesthesia machine issues with the technicians, and customizations to accommodate EMR implementation, procurement planning, and incident review. It was a routine visit for this physician, and he’s not the only doctor who stops by.

How have the MedStar technicians formed such a bond with clinicians? It starts with a solid customer-service attitude: “Every technician in my department understands that we are a service department and that our relevance in this hospital is dependent on how well we serve our customers,” says Dheepak Raja, the department’s director.

It’s true: The stature and success of an HTM department hinges on a strong customer-service mind-set and many other factors within a hospital and the department. But efforts to promote the value of the HTM locally, within a hospital, also need to be complemented and reinforced by associations and individuals nationally.

What to Promote

For HTM departments to gain the recognition and impact within the hospital that they are due, they need to understand and respond to the bottom-line issues that matter most. And that means understanding and responding to the concerns of the C-suite.

In a 2010 interview, Thomas C. Dolan, then president and CEO of the American College of Healthcare Executives, spoke about the top concerns of healthcare executives.1 His comments provide a superb outline of the issues that HTM professionals need to address.

When asked what departments that manage healthcare technology can do to increase their recognition, Dolan put it this way: “Like all of us, hospital CEOs are looking for answers to their major challenges. The question then becomes, how can biomedical/clinical engineering help hospitals address top concerns, such as financial challenges, patient safety and quality, physician-hospital relations, and personnel shortages? For example, can biomedical/clinical engineering increase revenues or reduce costs? What role does it play in patient safety and quality? How can it enhance the relationship between physicians and hospitals? Can it make existing personnel more productive?”

Dolan’s answer provides a thorough outline of the things HTM departments can do to further the missions of their organizations. The key point is, you are already doing most, if not all, of these things already. We all know that HTM helps the bottom line of hospitals, and that you contribute to patient care and quality. And at the Medstar Washington Hospital Center, seeing the surgeon collaborating with technicians was a great example of enhancing the relationship between physicians and hospitals, and making existing personnel more productive.

There are many more examples like this in every facility across the nation. But more people need to know about it. That’s where you come in.

How to Promote

It’s easy to say that you should be promoting your department within your organization, but to do so, you need plenty of resources. To help in that effort, AAMI has developed a series of marketing materials that can be used to promote the HTM field. It includes posters, FAQ sheets, and informational fliers that you can use to educate and promote HTM’s value to hospital executives, clinicians, IT personnel, and prospective students.

The materials were developed by AAMI’s Technology Management Council (TMC) and participants of the two “Future Forum” meetings in 2011 and 2012. The Future Forum participants included technicians, directors, educators, biomedical association leaders, representatives of the American College of Clinical Engineering and ECRI Institute, the Veterans Administration, and other stakeholders. The meetings included leaders in the field such as Dave Francoeur, Karen Waninger, Jim Keller, Paul Kelley, Pat Lynch, and Dave Scott, among many others.

The Future Forum, which sought among other things to outline an ideal future for the profession, established a vision for HTM professionals as fully integrated members of the healthcare delivery team influencing the management of all related technology. It is our hope that the new marketing materials will be one important step toward realizing that vision.

A number of Future Forum participants have agreed to serve as official ambassadors by distributing the marketing materials across the country. But again, you are on the front line in this effort, and your role is critical in promoting the profession. You can download the marketing materials at www.IamHTM.org. Additional resources—including a new video to promote the HTM profession—will be added later in the year. It will take all of us to make this promotional effort work. 24×7

Patrick Bernat is director of healthcare technology management for AAMI, Arlington, Va. For more information, contact jbethune@allied360.com.

Reference

1. Dolan TC. C-suite faces challenges on finances, patient safety, and healthcare reform. Biomed Instrum Technol. 2010;44(1):26-27.