At the recent symposium of the Washington State Biomedical Society, Shane Criddle of Spacelabs spoke on the evolution of technology and its meaning for biomedical technicians. His talk was especially important because as Technology Manager for Spacelabs, he is in the unique position of understanding the direction of patient care technology and the various skills that technologists will need to install, maintain and assure systems reliability. Because he is industry based, he also has and objective view of the needs and relationships of the hospital’s biomedical and information technology departments.
He described the relationship between biomedical and IT departments as a kind of cold war and pointed out that each group needs to understand the differences between them. To resolve the biomed-IT conflict, Criddle said, “Both sides need to understand the differences in their cultures and communication styles. Biomeds, for instance, tend to be patient-facing generalists who interact frequently with clinicians. IT staff, by contrast, tend to be specialists who rarely encounter patients and have only limited engagement with clinicians. Biomeds, he said, ‘drive satisfaction,’ while ITs mission is primarily efficiency and uptime.”
Because of the difference between cultures, disputes between biomedical and IT departments are almost inevitable. Each discipline is comprised of dedicated professionals who are determined to do their job to the best of their abilities. The efficient delivery of hospital based healthcare will inevitably require more and more device connectivity and as connectivity increases, their disciplines will continue to overlap and fireworks will continue to break out.
The answer to this problem will not be easy, but a good first step would be for members of the biomedical departments to reach out to the technicians in the IT department and offer to teach them about the application and importance of common medical devices like infusion pumps and bedside monitors. Use this as an opportunity to give them a better understanding of the unique role these devices play in the monitoring and therapy of critically ill patients. Also, take the opportunity to explain your role in assuring the reliability of these devices, and explain why your rapid response to requests from physicians and nurses is your highest priority. By reaching out and helping the IT department to understand your role, you maybe able to help cool down the heated relationship and resolve conflicts more amicably.
Throughout the years, many aspects of hospital operations have changed and with those changes, there have often been disputes between hospital departments. Despite the occasional disputes, we should never forget that successful patient outcomes require the well coordinated teamwork of many disciplines. There are frontline caregivers like physicians, nurses and therapists who work directly with patients. Many other professionals like pharmacists, dieticians, laboratory and radiological technicians directly support their efforts. All of them combine to produce the best possible outcomes. Added to the mix are specialized support services: plant operations assures the integrity of all of the building services like plumbing, electricity, and comfortable room temperatures; environmental services assures room cleanliness; the IT department assures the integrity of information systems and the biomedical department assures the reliability and safety of medical devices.
One thing is certain; because of the dynamics of healthcare, the boundaries between departments will always be shifting. As those boundaries shift, conflicts will inevitably arise. In order to minimize those conflicts, each specialized group needs to make an extra effort to understand the importance of each role that everyone plays. One of the best ways to aid in that understanding is to reach out to the IT department and help them understand your role.
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