Danielle McGeary: Clearing Up Confusion and Embracing the Term ‘HTM’

Note: This post appeared in abbreviated form as the Final Word article in the January/February 2019 issue of BI&T.

During my time at AAMI, I have noticed a lot of confusion surrounding the term “healthcare technology management” (HTM). What does the term encompass, and when should it be used? This post will seek to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the term, provide clarity on how AAMI is using it, and hopefully generate enthusiasm among the field for embracing this (somewhat) new nomenclature.

The most fundamental way of explaining how and when to use HTM is to understand that the terminology is a rebranding of the overarching name for the field or an individual hospital-based department. Other common overarching names have included clinical engineering and “biomed.” Confusion can result from different generations and geographical areas around the world using these different names (i.e., HTM, clinical engineering, or biomed) to reference the field or their department.

HTM should not be used to refer to individual job titles—it was not meant to replace titles such as biomedical equipment technician (BMET), clinical engineer, capital planner, or cybersecurity specialist. For instance, we’re not “HTMers.” We are clinical engineers and BMETs who work in an HTM department. Because the roles and education required of clinical engineers and BMETs differ greatly, we do not want to mesh them together. A clear distinction exists between these two job titles, and we should respect that.

In addition, HTM often is used much too broadly. HTM is the field, consisting of hospital-based departments, responsible for managing the selection, maintenance, and safe and effective use of health technology and systems in facilities. HTM professionals are fully integrated members of the healthcare delivery team and have significant influence on the management of all aspects of healthcare technology. HTM does not encompass the medical device industry (research and development and manufacturing), research, or regulatory settings. The only exception to this would be OEM (original equipment manufacturer) field service engineers who work closely with a hospital’s HTM department. This job would fall under the HTM umbrella.

Making these distinctions is important, as I have encountered student interns thinking they would be spending the summer playing with mice or creating a new medical device. If we do not use the term correctly, we set a false expectation.

Many of you may be wondering where HTM even came from. Back in 2011, AAMI called together a diverse group of 30 professionals from across the country to identify a unified name and vision for the field. The professional pipeline was identified as a major challenge, and considering the technological shift toward medical systems and away from individual devices, the work of our field was being (and continues to be) drastically redefined. We were no longer just a break/fix shop in the hospital’s basement.

The group sought a new name that was accurate, easily understood by the public and other healthcare workers, and allowed for expansion of the field in the future. In selecting the name and outlining the vision, some of the more critical elements of common ground identified by the meeting participants included managing the full life cycle of healthcare technology, partnering with healthcare providers, and managing healthcare technology beyond the walls of healthcare organizations (e.g., in the home healthcare setting). From this meeting, the term healthcare technology management/HTM came to life.

The HTM field works on highly sophisticated systems, assists hospital administration and healthcare providers select new equipment, finds solutions to patient safety issues by constantly looking for new ways to optimize or integrate technology, and is at the forefront of risk analysis and medical device investigations when technology does not work as it should. For such an exciting profession, referring to ourselves with a slang term, such as biomed, seems a bit underwhelming and does not really encompass all the complex work we perform.

Hopefully that clears up some confusion, as well as instills pride among those of us working in the amazing profession that is HTM!

Danielle McGeary, CHTM, is vice president of healthcare technology management at AAMI.

7 thoughts on “Danielle McGeary: Clearing Up Confusion and Embracing the Term ‘HTM’

  1. Thank you for the explanation. I admit I was one who was a bit resentful of someone changing my career field name without notifying me or telling me I was not going to be getting a pay raise with the new title.

  2. I would have been much more impressed had AAMI actually done something to better the biomed career field, like get it aligned with imaging laws that mandate service manuals, passwords and software be required. Instead if what we call ourselves

  3. It is indeed a confusing definition. As WHO embraces this definition and emphasize that when used in its broader sense, it includes drugs and surgical procedure. But for the sake of healthcare delivery institutions they claim that it only covers the hardware associated. This definition then is what is creating “dis-ownership” of many processes in place since there is now a department that holds the name of this broad category of knowledge.

  4. The root of the problem is that HTM was created, as noted, by 30 arbitrary people chosen by AAMI who did not represent the profession in any formal way. Furthermore whether the term would be easily understood was not put to any test. Not surprisingly then, announcing a new name derived in this was has not produced clarity even 8 years later.

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