“What is the biggest opportunity for healthcare technology management professionals today?” If you aren’t wondering, you should be. I believe that we are at a critical juncture in our field’s development, and understanding where we are going and what opportunities exist should be important to everyone in the field, whether you ask me, someone else, or do research on your own.
It would be easy to answer that information technology (IT) and all that it comprises relative to HTM is the biggest opportunity. Cybersecurity, interfacing equipment to databases and applications, and supporting networked systems are constant points for discussion. Cost savings is another big topic; always has been, always will be. I could answer that the biggest opportunity is determining how to better manage alarms or improve the safety of medical devices and processes. These topics and many others are important. But I think that there is another even bigger opportunity that covers all of the above.
We have an opportunity as individuals and teams to follow AAMI’s lead and become known as conveners. Very little of what we do these days can be done on an island. While many daily tasks are still done on our own, a great deal of the significant work we do, or could do, requires collaboration with others. While seldom seen, we are a link in a very important chain. We can raise awareness and change perceptions. If we take the responsibility for bringing all of the right links in the chain together to solve problems, we can prove our value to our customers in a way they will clearly understand.
When I first joined AAMI we were very narrowly focused. Only a small segment of those working in the healthcare field even knew who we were. Over time, as AAMI became known as a convener, our importance to healthcare and our place in the hierarchy grew exponentially. When we isolate ourselves within our organization, we are in much the same place as AAMI was years ago: valuable, but not obviously so to many of our peers.
To be clear, when I discuss convening I’m not talking about monthly meetings with IT or participating in project meetings, environment of care committees, etc. I’m talking about taking the responsibility for bringing together diverse members of the healthcare field to solve problems. Those problems can be directly or indirectly related to HTM. Equipment utilization is one example. In my experience, some HTM team members get involved in discussions regarding utilization, but many do not. They don’t see such discussions as an HTM responsibility. While we may not have the ultimate authority to make decisions on which equipment is utilized in what location, we certainly have information that can inform the decision, and we have educated opinions that can be valuable to the discussion. If your organization has expensive equipment that is being underutilized, pulling together a group to discuss whether it makes sense to make changes can be of great value to your organization.
Just as important as being aware of an opportunity is deciding on the right approach to take advantage of it. Based on conversations I have had with many in the field, most HTM professionals understand the need to work with other departments such as IT. Unfortunately, it was also clear that a significant percentage of people approached those interactions reluctantly and reactively. In order to be an effective convener, you have to start by laying an effective foundation. If you are going to lead or participate effectively in collaborative problem solving, you have to—whenever possible—proactively address problems before they become an emergency. Maybe more importantly, everyone in HTM has to actively learn about all of the other members of the healthcare team, including front-line staff, as well as those in management. That can be done in various ways; perhaps the most underutilized method is to build into the orientation process for new employees a requirement to spend time with all of the other key departments. Another important requirement is having and demonstrating respect for all other members of the team. Working effectively in a collaborative manner requires you to appreciate what each other member of the team brings to the table.
I also want to be clear on another point. For years, many professionals in our field have been talking about getting HTM out of the basement. Typically, that conversation revolves around HTM leaders and staff getting out of the shop/lab and interacting more with our customers. That is important, but what I’m talking about is more involved. For our field to take the next step and become a more visible and highly respected member of the healthcare team, we have to break out of our box and help to solve significant healthcare problems. We have the talent to do that, and if we need to develop the skills to accompany the talent, let’s make that a priority. Healthcare needs our help. Let’s step up and be recognized!
Kenneth Maddock is quality director of healthcare technologies at Aramark. He is a member of the BI&T Editorial Board for AAMI and a former member of the AAMI Board of Directors.