Something has gone very wrong with our profession when its members do not seem to have higher goals than to operate low priced repair shops. If we are to have any value, we must play a broader role in our respective institutions.
In 1974, I started in this field when a hospital in Maine asked me to come to work for them and set up their first in house clinical engineering program. They realized that providing intensive care of patients required an increasing reliance on technology and they wanted to hire an engineer with broad healthcare experience to work with physicians and nurses to assure the medical electronic systems would meet their needs. They needed someone who not only understood the devices and associated systems involved in patient care, but more importantly, they wanted someone who could work closely with caregivers to help identify the best technical solutions to their problems and could assist them in integrating those solutions onto the care giving process. At that time, the FDA was not yet involved in the regulation of medical equipment and there were no governing bodies to assure reliable device design and manufacturing, so my job included inspecting devices for quality and testing them for accuracy prior to purchasing.
Although setting up a facility to repair medical devices was included in my job description, its purpose was to assure the rapid turnaround of repairs and to minimize the amount of downtime so that when physicians and nurses needed devices they would always be available for use. Also, by hiring technicians who understood medical device applications and the problems users were likely to encounter, were able to offer 24 x 7 technical support to all users. At no time did anyone ever suggest to me that my role in establishing a repair facility was to provide low cost repairs. Senior management understood fully that my role in setting up a repair facility was to provide rapid turnaround of repairs for the benefit of our patients.
Today, there seems to be a common thread among biomedical managers that their primary role in their organizations is to reduce repair costs. When people talk like this, I wonder what happened and why they think this way. It annoys me that they hold such a low opinion of their own profession. If your only role is to provide low priced repairs, how do you differ from any other occupation that provides low cost repairs of household electronic devices like televisions and computers? Certainly, for patient safety purposes, you may be required to learn some job related physiology and anatomy, and you also need an understanding of how each device operates, but otherwise you might as well be repairing consumer electronic devices.
Something has gone wrong. We seem to have developed leaders who do an outstanding job of telling us how to reduce our costs. We have leaders who tell us how expand our repair services to more areas, but where are the leaders who are telling us how to expand our range of services beyond repair and testing? Where are the leaders with the vision and skills to take us in new directions?
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