When I first became a biomed, I was taught how to troubleshoot vacuum tubes and transistors. You had to be able to read a schematic and turn a wrench. Our world was mostly analog.
Today, the world is all digital. We no longer carry Day-Timers but use our phones or computers for our calendars. We have smart cars, smartphones and smart homes. I’m OK with that. I have a network closet in my house with numerous switches managing all the connected devices in my house. I have six Amazon Echo devices, several smart televisions, numerous Roku or Apple TV devices, and two smart thermostats. My wife or I can play music in our house by asking Siri to play Barry White if we what a romantic dinner. These are all connected via wired and wireless networks throughout the house. Sort of like the hospitals of today connecting all the medical devices to the switches and servers to collect patient data.
Today, you have to be a “geek” to be successful. I’m not complaining because I am a geek at heart. I was thinking about this while updating the software in my home’s smart lights—yes, they have software that you have to manage! I guess you could call me the “network administrator” for my house. When a device doesn’t respond to my wife’s voice command, she calls me for technical assistance. I’ve thought about having her open a service ticket but decided that was not the best approach to a happy marriage.
The tool bag today for the modern biomed is not a pocket screwdriver and a multimeter but a network tester and a list of passwords to get on the network. The modern biomed is more an IT person than their older counterparts like me, but they still have patient safety at the forefront.
So, what skills are needed for the modern biomed? They must still possess all the skills of biomed that we all learned (except maybe vacuum tube troubleshooting) but also understand all the IT skills needed to manage a modern hospital. You need to understand the basics of computers—both hardware and software. You need to understand wired and wireless networking. You must understand and implement security standards for our connected medical devices. You have to manage operating system patches on your medical equipment just like your IT counterpart.
Some would state our profession has changed. But I think the focus of our field is still the safety of our patients. It has just changed from electrical safety to the safety and protection of patient information.
David W. Braeutigam is president of Braeutigam Enterprises LLC in Dallas, TX.