Gregory Herr: HTM Must Rethink Its Role to Thrive in Modern Healthcare

As the term “healthcare technology management (HTM)” becomes more prevalent, those of us who work in this field are still challenged with what this name really means. How does one implement the goals of HTM? What are the new opportunities? Embracing HTM as a name should be the first step in a broader goal of bringing greater recognition, respect, and value to the work we do. If it’s just a name change—without an examination of our role—we have missed an opportunity.

Healthcare leadership wants to know what meaningful work HTM does and how that work imparts measurable value. What would happen if HTM did not exist? Or sold as a service to the lowest bidder? What can we do to stay relevant, to be viewed as valued HTM service—and not identified solely as a necessary evil?  Healthcare leaders value quality, cost effectiveness, safety and patient satisfaction. So how does HTM align strongly with those values? What will it take for HTM to thrive?

The HTM professional must expand thinking beyond past practices and norms. Benchmarks, such as the number of devices maintained to the number of FTEs or the cost of service ratio (COSR), are rough gauges, but they don’t show quality or value. What about downtime or IT security costs? Is there effective technology planning? How are these costs incorporated? Or do we let other departments assume these functions? If we do, HTM will lose its role in the future.

The factors of quality, customer and patient satisfaction, overall value (a measurement of customer satisfaction over total costs) are important, but how does HTM align with these factors? How COSR measure quality or overall value? A low COSR implies efficient operations, but it says nothing about quality. It does not measure cost effectiveness since revenue or usage are not accounted.  HTM must include specific quality and value factors in its benchmarking.

The very nature of healthcare technology management is changing. There is a growing information technology (IT) component to much of what we do. In some healthcare facilities, there is an emerging clinical engineering (CE)-IT hybrid position to manage the medical IT systems. Such a position involves taking clinical engineering professionals and training them in basic technical support, applications, and IT fundamentals. Such a professional must be able to interact directly interact across departments as a peer and with a clear understanding of the workflow.  A clear and efficient workflow is important to any organization, and HTM professionals must be involved in setting and understanding the workflow.

Evolving technologies in infection control, asset management, middleware, alarm management and temperature tracking are just a few technologies offering new opportunities for HTM services.  As HTM managers, we must seize these opportunities or lose them to others.

The question of how to move HTM into the future hinges on several factors, including each organization’s goals, our own skills in developing and demonstrating our value, and of course the professional relationships we have with leadership and department colleagues. For HTM to thrive, we must think more about our changing role in healthcare and our alignment with the critical success factors the organization has defined. Success on that front hinges on far more than the act of embracing a uniform name to describe ourselves.

Gregory Herr, CCE, CHTM, is the director of clinical engineering at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, OH. He is a member of the BI&T Editorial Board.

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2 Comments on “Gregory Herr: HTM Must Rethink Its Role to Thrive in Modern Healthcare”

  1. Rick Schrenker Says:

    “As the term “healthcare technology management (HTM)” becomes more prevalent, those of us who work in this field are still challenged with what this name really means.”

    No, um, kidding?


  2. Ted Cohen Says:

    Greg: “A low COSR implies efficient operations, but it says nothing about quality.”

    I agree that low COSR implies efficient operations but is NOT a good quality metric.

    What HTM quality metrics do you propose to use?

    AAMI has a task force that is currently working on improving COSR definitions as well as looking at other potential HTM metrics and their definitions. Defining a metric is relatively easy for internal benchmarking (comparing your own organization to itself over time), but it gets much more difficult to standardize metric definitions well enough to share data with other institutions (external benchmarking). Specific ideas are welcome!

    Ted Cohen


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