James Jackson: A Call for Collaboration

It all started nine years ago, when I was while trying to land a job that would keep me from feeling the pains of the Great Recession ever again. Healthcare seemed the logical choice—people are always going to get sick, I thought.

I started researching local colleges and programs they had that would marry my electronics background from the Air Force and my IT background from previous employment. A local community college had a program that seemed to tie these two fields together nicely: “Biomedical Equipment and Information Systems Technology.” I enrolled in the program. What happened next amazed me.

In less than a decade, my career took me from a biomed co-op, to biomed, then to application support, IT Infrastructure, and medical systems security, where I am today. All of these roles were within the same department, falling into the healthcare technology management umbrella.

It didn’t seem that long ago that we were pulling the last of the mercury sphygmomanometers off the wall. Look at us now! The most basic of clinical things, like taking vital signs, now require a small army of people to integrate properly with our electronic health record (EHR). It used to be easy for clinicians to know who to call when their blood pressure device wasn’t working. Nowadays, with the way we have everything integrated, that answer is not as easy. Is it something wrong with the device, networking, infrastructure, interface(s), the EMR, or does IS have a something blocked on a firewall?

We used to be able to pull a device out of the box, record some simple information, do an electrical safety test, and get it to the clinicians to start helping patients. These days, we have to have a kick off meeting with vendors, supply chain, legal, clinicians and multiple other departments months, if not a year, in advance to be sure a device can be integrated into our environment.

A lot of the time, we as members of HTM find ourselves at the center of the integration discussions because we usually understand the clinical needs/workflows along with the technology. As systems have evolved, we have needed to keep up with changes. To this day, I would argue the HTM department has the best understanding of these complicated systems from the PCA to the back-end infrastructure to the nurse helping the physician make clinical decisions.

It is important we start sharing our knowledge with other departments as well as learning more of what they do. In my experience, the easiest way to do this is to get involved. Volunteer to be that person to sit in on a meeting to discuss the next system. Don’t just go to the meeting—you need to really understand your role in HTM and in your organization.

Become the person that people want/need in the meetings. Share your thoughts, ideas, and experience within the meetings. Reach out to the various managers of other departments to see if they will allow you to sit in on a team meeting so you can introduce yourself. Take someone from another department out to lunch and pick their brains about what they do and who some of their key colleagues are. Get involved with your organization’s committee meetings.

I’ve found that the HTM department’s perspective is welcomed. A lot of times, we can bridge the gap from the clinical to technical teams.

James Jackson, CISSP, BSPA, is a medical systems security professional at The Christ Hospital Health Network in Cincinnati, OH.

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