Q&A: Goodbye clinical engineers, hello healthcare technology managers?

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It’sofficial. The hospital profession formerly known as clinical engineering or biomedical engineering will, over time, come to be known as healthcare technology management .

At least, this will be so if an influential cadre comprising some of the profession’s leading lights succeeds in promoting their vision for the profession’s future. The group of 30, whose two-day April assembly was facilitated by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) and dubbed the “Future Forum,” announced their consensus on the Sept. 28 renaming in an AAMI statement.

The group made the decision after reviewing feedback solicited from more than 200 medical equipment service professionals during a 90-day comment period.

Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) contacted AAMI for further comment and was put in touch with Future Forum participant Dustin Telford, CBET, a clinical engineering equipment technician at Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, who also serves as director of clinical engineering at EarthMed, a nonprofit medical outreach also based in Salt Lake City.

HTM: AAMI is assuring people that job titles will not change, just the “umbrella” term identifying the field they work in. But how much staying power will the change have if it doesn’t lead to changes in any job titles?
Telford: It’s one thing to say that we have a name for the profession, and another to say we’re just going to call everyone a healthcare technology manager, or healthcare technology management director, or healthcare technology management technician or some derivative. That was not the intent behind naming the profession. However, we have general consensus, at least within the forum—and I think within the community—that we eventually need to adopt titles that will be more commonly used across the board.

Looking at my own titles, I am a clinical engineering equipment technician here, but in my last job I was a biomedical equipment technician. So we hope, as a group, that someday the titles will be more [consistent]? Yes, absolutely. And I would personally endorse that 100 percent.

I see a lot of value in being able to recruit people into the field or to call maybe another hospital that I don’t know anything about and ask to speak with the healthcare technology management department and then, once connected to the department, say, I’d like to talk to a biomed, for example. I’m not saying that should be the term, but what should we call called biomeds who perform the technical service on equipment? The first step is to define the profession under a professional name.

In the future, the industry needs to take up the gauntlet of defining what we call ourselves at the various levels of specialization—and that’s probably a better way to put it than various levels of seniority or leadership or management.

HTM: AAMI says that a common concern raised by many who submitted comments—particularly technicians—was that the name “doesn’t reflect what we do.” How large a segment of the response group do you think holds this point of view?
Telford: The individual quoted there represents a segment of technicians—like myself, for example. Not that I agree with that particular statement, that the name doesn’t reflect what we do, but it does reflect a segment. Whether or not it’s a large segment, I’m not sure. During the 90-day open comment window, we received a variety of responses. Some were very, very positive and then others felt the new name doesn’t reflect what we do. I think that’s more of an opinion based on individual circumstances and maybe how different facilities operate their departments rather than representative of the entire industry.

My take on this is that it reflects the tip of the iceberg. I think there are quite a few people who would probably say the same thing.

HTM: Things are moving forward and you’re going to need this group’s buy-in. How will you secure it?
Telford: From what I’ve heard, not only through the Future Forum process but also, for example, at association meetings, people have a sticking point with the management part of it. It’s a little less sticky with healthcare technology. Where that part gets sticky is where people say it sounds too similar to information technology. But the management componenet is a matter of a definition. As a technician, I manage what I do and I manage the equipment that I service. I manage the parts or the contract. I manage the life of that equipment. But some