Editor’s note: An earlier version of this blog post appeared in the Sept/Oct 2016 issue of BI&T.
In December of last year, I passed the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Board of Governors Exam and achieved Fellow status. Some may say, “Congratulations on that accomplishment!” But the next statement might also be, “So what?”
My short reply is that if healthcare technology management (HTM) leaders want to be seen as relevant within their organizations, and within the healthcare industry, then we must get on the same level as our peers. This means getting involved outside the HTM industry, pursuing higher education, and letting our voices be heard in helping solve the issues facing healthcare. This will require more focus on being part of the overall healthcare leadership team and not just HTM.
Many HTM-specific conferences provide educational sessions and discussions about the ability of our departments to impact the challenges facing healthcare. Yet, if we really want to drive change, then why are we not involved with other organizations that can help?
As I pondered this question, my thoughts came back to recent job postings for leadership positions within the HTM industry. A number of these positions are at a grade level that would require our peers in an organization to have an undergraduate or graduate degree, along with the requisite experience in the field. In my experience, if the HTM industry required an undergraduate or graduate degree for organizational leadership positions, it would limit the candidate pool.
If we truly have a desire to be equals within our healthcare organizations, and the healthcare industry, this needs to change. We need to pursue higher education, step outside our comfort zone, and become involved with organizations outside of the HTM industry. Involvement with—and membership in— organizations like ACHE requires an undergraduate or graduate degree.
In the past, our departments could get by with internal development of troubleshooting techniques, knowledge of medical equipment, keeping up on regulatory requirements, self-taught computer skills, and on-the-job training. Today, the changes seen in healthcare, along with the obligations we have to our patients and consumers, will require the HTM industry to follow suit with other healthcare leaders.
Outside our field, these changes and obligations have resulted in a more educated workforce. This can be seen in the acronyms listed after names on business cards or in people’s signature blocks. Some of these acronyms might mean nothing to the reader, but most people recognize things like BBA, BBE, MBA, or MHA. The formal education of the HTM workforce will not solve all of our problems, but it can open opportunities, and it will develop confidence among our peers. Higher education and continued professional development will assist HTM departments in coming out of the basement and be more than just “the department that fixes our equipment.”
I had a desire to become a more active leader within the healthcare industry. This created the drive to pursue and complete a bachelor’s and a master’s Degree. The next step was to determine how to be recognized as a leader among the peers in my organization and within the healthcare industry. This brought me to ACHE and the goal of becoming a Fellow. Will obtaining the acronym “FACHE” automatically catapult me into a higher level of leadership in my organization? Obviously, the answer is no, but it has provided a highly recognized status among leaders within my organization and in the healthcare industry.
HTM leaders need to step out and be recognized as someone within their organization that can drive and lead change. To accomplish this task, we need to stop being the fix-it department and start seeing ourselves as a peer to other healthcare industry leaders. This means accepting new challenges, pursuing higher education, being an advocate of higher education, and becoming involved with all of healthcare—not just the HTM industry.
There is no doubt HTM leaders can be considered executives within their organizations, but that status does not come without work.
Mike Busdicker, MBA, CHTM, FACHE, is system director of clinical engineering at Intermountain Healthcare in Midvale, UT, and a member of AAMI’s Technology Management Council.