Kenneth Maddock: The Biggest Opportunity for HTM Professionals Today

“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.

5 thoughts on “Kenneth Maddock: The Biggest Opportunity for HTM Professionals Today

  1. Hi Ken,

    Great blog. and you have highlighted the problems faced by Healthcare Technology Managers and the staff. Especially when all new devices/ systems are installed and configured like a business IT systems and very little thoughts or considerations given to the system or the technology being installed and the purpose of it. In most cases very little input or no input at all from HTM.

    I love your statement — ” 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.”

    I also firmly believe that all of us need to get out of the department in the basement and promote what we can offer and what and how HTM can help in the long run to benefit every one.

    In simple terms HTM need to be promoted in every level starting from government – ministers to the average consumers and end users of the services.

    Thank you for the blog and highlighting what is required.



  2. Several years ago I was given very valuable advice regarding my own professional development within a hospital setting: Volunteer for every committee or initiative you can. The net effect of such behavior was an exposure to people, processes, issues, challenges and activities across the healthcare spectrum that I would have never had in the normal course of my biomed work. From my perspective, the relationships you build with other professionals by involving yourself in their work and working alongside them on issues unrelated to HTM is foundational to our ability to be conveners.

  3. Great blog, Ken. One thing I’ll add for all readers is that AAMI’s new Strategic Plan that we hope will be formally approved in early November has an increased emphasis on the HTM community. One small part of a multi-pronged effort is our Education Department teaming with CHIME to leverage its CIO leadership course materials to the benefit of HTMs that want to set their sights high. We’re looking at some other innovative programs as well to “bootstrap” HTMs along the path you suggest. More to come in the near future but thought the leadership course might be of interest. Thanks again! Rob

  4. Totally agree with the comments made about getting out of the box and attacking issues at a different level. What’s missing is the “how” to achieve the “next steps” you propose. It is no small task to go from putting out typical fires and keeping up with PMs with limited staff to being involved at higher levels. I believe that many folks need some training in the “how.” Perhaps with the new communications technologies we have there could be more sharing of best practices across the country. Also, I believe that local BMET associations need to get out of the rut that many are in. Many associations invite vendors to do technical presentations at their monthly meetings, but almost never have meetings to talk about larger issues. Somehow, local associations need to do both: education that is technical, and also education that is business management.

    Thank you for initiating this conversation. It is worth talking about.

    • Chris,
      Great feedback! I do think that additional education on communication, problem-solving, and general business management would be beneficial — whether this is at the annual conference, provided via webinar, or using some other methodology. Time is always an issue. Some organizations will be better-suited to taking on “outside the box” challenges than others based on their staffing. But I do believe that, although clearly it is not a small task as you note, everyone can find a way to extend their reach in some manner.

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