Americans often think of Saudi Arabia as a place that has princes, a king and great wealth. It is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after all. As the world’s leader in oil production capacity, the country enjoys great wealth, but it also has most of the same attributes of any other modern, developed country.
One of those attributes is a growing healthcare system. Healthcare IT (HIT) is growing at an 11 percent annual rate there.
In May, Myron Hartman and Frank Painter were visiting the country conducting CBET and CCE training.
Painter is a professor and internship program director of the Clinical Engineering Program at the University of Connecticut and Hartman is the program coordinator for the Biomedical Engineering Technology program at Penn State University.
Hartman pointed out that he found the Ministry of National Guard-Health Affairs HTM Department in Riyadh to have many good qualities. He said that the department’s director recently changed its name from clinical engineering to health technology management based upon the AAMI recommendation.
Of the department’s director, Hartman said: “He is very progressive in promoting certification to all of his technicians to obtain the CBET certification (and) he is very progressive in promoting certification to all of his engineers to obtain the CCE certification.”
Hartman said that the director had sponsored a five-day training program for the technicians and engineers to learn about certification and to help them prepare for certification.
“They have a very forward program on technology management and project management regarding medical equipment,” Hartman says. “They are currently very active with the construction activities relating to medical equipment for a new children’s hospital — this is a very large and modern facility.”
“Our Healthcare Technology Management Department is under the health system of the Ministry of National Guard-Health Affairs that provides optimum healthcare to national guard personnel, their dependents and other eligible and paying patients kingdomwide,” says Abdullah A. Al Aqeel MSc, CCE, PE, associate executive director of Clinical Engineering for the Ministry of National Guard-Health Affairs.
“The health system also provides excellent academic opportunities, conducts research and participates in the industry and community service programs in healthcare. Our HTM department sits on a strong reporting hierarchical structure directly responsible to the chief operating officer,” Al Aqeel says.
The department covers most of the same functions found in a U.S.-based HTM department, including technology planning, service contract management, safety and risk management and quality improvement efforts.
The department handles the medical equipment needs in five facilities, totaling 2,551 beds. They also take care of the equipment in 69 primary health clinics.
“The HTM department in our institution has been keeping up with the current trends and development in the field in order to confront the many challenges in advancing healthcare, using cutting edge-technology, to identify and characterize the professionals working in the field, and to facilitate future expansion and long-term growth of responsibilities, among others,” Al Aqeel adds.
“To embrace and implement the progress in the specialty, our Clinical Engineering Department was renamed as Healthcare Technology Management Department last month (in May). This is also in line with the department’s continued concentration on risk management, safety and efficient technical support of healthcare technologies that has an impact on enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of the provided programmed services in our institution resulting in improved and increased health outcomes,” he says.
To keep connected with their fellow HTM professionals in Saudi Arabia and abroad, the team members are in, or participate with, several industry organizations.
“Our HTM department has been involved in activities with some local and international organizations/affiliations for memberships, standards, regulations and best practices in the field of healthcare technology management,” Al Aqeel says.
Those organizations include AAMI, ECRI, ACCE, the Saudi Council of Engineers, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization and the King Saud University. The department promotes the HTM academic program at the university.
In line with the purpose of Hartman’s visit, the department has realized the importance of certification and has pursued that course for its employee contingent.
“Aside from the pioneering expansion of HTM services, our HTM department has been pushing for the certifications of our engineers relevant to their education, skills and job experience, such as CCE, CBET, CRES, CLES, Professional Engineer, ect., and sustainably allocating budget for review courses for these certifications,” Al Aqeel says.
Just like its American counterparts, the department is faced with assessing service contract needs and decisions.
“Service contracts are reviewed for practical application and cost effectiveness, lack of expertise or logistical resources, maximizing the benefits within a highly regulated and cost-constrained setting,” he says. “After evaluating the need/implementation for a service contract, all requests for service on contracted equipment are coordinated through (the) relevant department of our institution.”
Beyond PMs and other routine tasks, the department has been involved in several projects recently.
“Our HTM department has been involved in several major project management and clinical application of healthcare technologies across the regions,” Al Aqeel says.
One of those projects was a departure from what a U.S.-based biomed might encounter. Al Aqeel explains that the project required “managing the identification, acquisition, and customization of (an) appropriate, cost-effective, 57 patient-bed mobile field hospital and equipping it with advance healthcare technologies and prepare it for deployment.”
Another undertaking was “the establishment of (a) Cyclotron Operation under our department to manage the high-technology cyclotron machine for the intricate manufacturing of radio nuclides and radiopharmaceutical needed for the SPECT and PET/CT service.”
Like many departments, the HTM professionals in the Ministry of National Guard-Health Affairs HTM Department have recently taken on the replacement and acquisition of a very large number of infusion pumps. That project was extensive and included all the facilities of the Ministry in all regions with brand new technology.
Al Aqeel also points to “the acquisition of laboratory medical devices and systems with huge numbers of consumable items through GPRR deals,” as a recent challenge.
Next time you think of Saudi Arabia, don’t just think of the oil wells, but also a cutting-edge HTM department working to make a difference.
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