There is an old saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Undoubtedly, the AAMI committee who opted for the new name, “Healthcare Technology Management” was sincere and discussed many options prior to reaching their conclusion. While I am grateful to those within the profession who are dedicated enough to have made the effort, the new name simply does not resonate with me. Supposedly, it will help unify us by replacing the variety of names we have been using and provide the public with a uniform title for our discipline. Unfortunately, for me, I do not think it accomplishes this purpose.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines managing as: “to have control of (something, such as a business, department, sports team, etc.)” Similarly, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: “to be in charge of (a company, establishment, or undertaking) Based on these definitions, I do not believe that many of us are in control or are in charge of healthcare technology for our hospitals. Hospital Information Technology departments manage the vast amount of healthcare technology that is digital related. Individual user departments usually manage their own highly sophisticated technologies like surgical robots, PET scanners, advanced prosthetics and others. Our role with these devices is usually limited to assuring that manufacturer’s service personnel perform planned maintenance in a timely manner. It is unlikely that we will be involved with the newer smart phone related technologies that are beginning to re-shape the healthcare landscape. The simple reality is that we are not managing much healthcare technology. Adopting a name that gives us the appearance of doing so is not only confusing to the other healthcare disciplines, but to the public at large. We risk undermining our own credibility when we adopt titles that give us the appearance of claiming to do things that we simply do not do.
When it comes to titles, I have always preferred the name “Clinical Engineering” to describe our profession. It more closely identifies what we do. I left industry to work in hospitals because I wanted to work in a clinical setting to assist physicians, nurses and other caregivers by providing technological or engineering solutions to assist them in the care of their patients. Our primary focus has always been the devices used in clinical applications within hospitals, physician’s offices, and outlying clinics. It clearly defines us as support members of the teams who are directly responsible for patient care and that is what makes us unique from other engineering disciplines.
In addition to our clinical role, we understand the intricate relationship between medical device designers, caregivers, patients, and regulatory agencies. I believe strongly that we should capitalize on that knowledge by continuing to accentuate our clinical role. We can leave the broader role of technology management including, device connectivity, electronic records, smart phones, and communication systems to others while we continue to do the thing we excel at by maintaining our clinical visibility.
Change is inevitable and our professional responsibility requires that we continue to grow, learn, and adapt as technology advances. Despite those many changes, providing the best possible outcomes for patients will always be the fundamental purpose of hospitals. Our role to provide engineering support to the skilled physicians, nurses and other caregivers who are responsible for patient outcomes should always be our goal.
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