Once upon a time, biomedical engineering simply meant repairing, servicing, or ensuring regulatory compliance of medical devices in the hospital.
As new technologies have given the specialty a much broader and more integral place in the hospital, it seems like those days are long gone.
If the annual HIMSS meeting took place this year it would have been the 10th year that Paul Frisch, chief of biomedical physics & engineering at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute, was involved in showcasing the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion, a full-scale demonstration of how a variety of emerging technologies are utilized in the clinical space. This year, the pavilion was to include Advanced Biomedical Engineering as a component of the pavilion, but of course the COVID-19 outbreak had other plans.
Since we are unable to visit the pavilion first-hand, HealthCare Business News asked Frisch to tell us about the presentation, and the technological changes advancing the field of biomedical engineering.
“The intelligent hospital looks at all the new and evolving technologies that are used to create a seamless environment for passing data between devices, between clinical applications, and to be able to aggregate data in such a way, delivering it either to the medical record or to the point of care with a variety of commercial devices,” said Frisch. “These new technologies change the face of biomedical engineering, so we no longer look at stand alone type of devices, we look at devices that are fully networked and integrated, creating a whole new paradigm in which biomedical engineering works.”
As part of that sea change, biomedical teams are getting involved on the project level in RFID and RTLS implementation to manage hospital inventory, monitor workflows and optimize business processes. Meanwhile, 3D printing, which initially came to biomedical engineering as a tool for rapid prototyping and reverse engineering of various things in the medical space, has entered the clinical sphere for producing anatomical models for surgical planning, generated from imaging exams.
“We are all moving toward reconstruction and implants, which will come down the pike in the not too distant future,” said Frisch. “So 3D printing opens up a whole new environment that biomedical engineering will be involved in, and I think all the groups will have significant partnerships and affiliations with radiology and surgery.”
These changes have ushered in a whole new set of regulatory challenges to be dealt with. New rules and guidelines have been presented both by CMS and the Joint Commission that biomedical departments are working to advance.
“Clearly, biomedical engineering has a completely different synergy of operation than it did 15-20 years ago, and part of that is reflected at Memorial Sloan Kettering, where biomedical engineering is actually a clinical department interacting heavily with its clinical counterparts in various forms of treatment and therapy,” said Frisch. “As a result, we have a mechanical engineering department that works under biomedical engineering to help support radiation therapy processes and surgical processes.”
Any conversation about the future of healthcare would be incomplete without a mention of artificial intelligence, but discerning actionable insights in health technology management data is still in its early stages. Frisch attributed this to the kind of information its databases typically use.
“For repair and maintenance things you want mean time between failures and databases that are comprehensive enough to reveal these patterns,” he explained. “To be able to predict the life cycle of a device you need pieces of information; when you purchased, how long you’ve had it, failures, and so on. Typically, that type of information is segregated in the hospital, so biomed hasn’t always had access to it.”