I’ve been involved in clinical engineering nearly 45 years, and I remain as enthusiastic as ever about our industry. I am enthused because I see the potential for technological advances to greatly improve the quality of healthcare and to widely extend the availability of that quality healthcare to a higher percentage of the world’s population (at ever lower costs).
However, I also recognize that regardless of how advanced or sophisticated our technological advances are in healthcare, their mere existence does not guarantee a beneficial result. Ultimately achieving the hoped-for benefits of our evolving technologies depends on how new technological advances are used and how effectively they are supported. That is where we in clinical engineering (CE) and healthcare technology management (HTM) must be involved.
The healthcare industry and providers of CE/HTM services must recognize that:
- While many new healthcare technologies have great potential, they may not be appropriate for every situation at every provider (or at least there can be a wrong time and a right time for their implementation).
- CE/HTM must have new processes, partnerships, roles, skill sets, and tools to support existing and future generations of healthcare technology.
- CE/HTM must actively work with clinicians, IT, risk management, supply chain, finance, vendors, and other stakeholders to ensure the aforementioned services are delivered effectively.
- CE/HTM must make a concerted effort to avoid complacency and accept that change is the new norm.
As CE/HTM professionals, we should:
- Assist our organizations in formulating their strategic vision with respect to the selection, adoption, and support of new healthcare technologies—those technologies that will achieve specific, measurable improvements in safe, effective, and quality patient care.
- Reorganize and re-align CE/HTM programs (i.e., staff and services) to meet organization’s changing needs.
- Recognize the reality of integrated medical and information technologies and establish effective collaboration between the traditional CE/HTM and IT supporters of those technologies.
- Drive financial reform, trimming unwarranted services and focusing on delivery of services that enhanced organization’s ability to deliver high-quality and cost-effective patient care.
- Manage and collaborate with multidisciplinary stakeholders in HTM operations and projects.
- Formulate new and updated guidelines and processes (including the adoption of quality management systems) to ensure HTM support services remain relevant and effective.
As CE/HTM professionals, we can make the difference in whether or not the coming advancements in health technology will lead to universal improvements in the quality and availability of patient care. A lack of attention and innovation on our part could lead to major disappointment.
I’m betting on us to do the right thing.
Stephen Grimes is managing partner and principal consultant for Strategic Healthcare Technology Associates, LLC, and a member of the BI&T Editorial Board.