Discussing the state of HTM and upcoming AAMI Exchange
May 28, 2021
by Sean Ruck
, Contributing Editor
With the safety of attendees in mind, AAMI has announced that the 2021 AAMI Exchange will be held as a fully virtual event, from June 7-11. The decision was made after consulting with sponsors, exhibitors, speakers, and attendees; and after reviewing data about the COVID pandemic nationally and in the host city of Charlotte, NC. While circumstances related to the pandemic are improving, significant health risks remain.
Recently, HealthCare Business News reached out to AAMI’s acting president and CEO, Steve Campbell, to talk more about the news and how AAMI is preparing for the event, and what attendees should expect. In addition, Campbell discussed the unique times and issues facing healthcare technology and the priorities of AAMI and the field.
HCB News: Tell us a bit about your background in healthcare and with AAMI?
Steve Campbell: To be candid, I got into the field by accident. Although I earned my degree in business administration, I fell in love with journalism early in my career. Over time, I became a journalist in Washington, D.C. covering healthcare and other issues. Then, in 2000, I was ready for a change and landed a job at AAMI as editor of our journal, BI&T. Over the years, I worked my way up at AAMI to director to vice president, senior vice president, and then COO — a position I held over the last six years. In December, when Rob Jensen retired as AAMI’s president, the leaders of the AAMI board of directors asked me to serve as acting president and CEO.
HCB News: How did your previous career in journalism help prepare you for this?
SC: On the surface, you might not think there is a lot in common between journalism and AAMI. But in looking back, my experience in journalism helped a great deal. As a journalist, you need to grasp issues quickly, understand all sides of an issue, adapt to all different types of people, respond to situations quickly, multitask, and know how to grab the attention of your audience. I use all of those traits at AAMI every day. Journalists, for the most part, are also practical, and that’s important at AAMI. Our members depend on us to develop practical, quality guidance so it’s been a good fit.
HCB News: You stepped into the role of acting president in December, how has that experience been so far?
SC: The transition has been very smooth. Of course, we miss Rob Jensen. Thankfully, AAMI has a great staff leadership team and board of directors, and a strategic plan that is guiding our work.
Since I became acting president and CEO, I have been on a listening tour to evaluate everything we do and where we could improve. I have interviewed staff and leadership, other organizations, the FDA, and our corporate and hospital members. During these discussions, I always stress that I value candor. That’s really important to me. If someone has a concern about AAMI or an idea, they just need to be upfront and candid. Candor helps us solve problems and strengthens the organization and field.
HCB News: Did you hear anything unexpected during your listening tour or was there any confirmation of thoughts you had regarding challenges or opportunities?
SC: I would say there were some common themes that emerged. One would be that AAMI members place high value on and appreciate AAMI staff, the quality of our programming, conference center, the work we did on the pandemic, and our relationships with external organizations including the FDA, the Joint Commission, and other organizations. Those were all reaffirming attributes to the organization.
In terms of areas where we could improve, I heard several comments about improving our IT – website and IT tools to streamline the use of member benefits through our online platforms, which we are working on. In a way, that too was reaffirming, to know current projects are important to members.
The conversations sparked a lot of ideas about how to promote different programs and initiatives to consider pursuing. Our leadership team has gone through notes from those conversations to develop action items to pursue.
HCB News: Were the improvements to online platforms being worked on prior to the pandemic or was the pandemic a catalyst for moving that work onto the list?
SC: These were things being worked on pre-pandemic. AAMI members had a lot of great things to say about our virtual experience during the pandemic — our meetings, trainings and other events. It’s been a very smooth transition.
What I was referring to is that we underwent a major change in our database in 2019, as well as our website and other platforms. Whenever you make significant changes, there are sometimes bumps in the road and those are the issues that we are resolving now.
HCB News: Something like going online to look up continuing education units and that type of thing since the database isn’t linked up the way it was in the past?
SC: Right. Another example is that our corporate members want the ability to maintain their roster of employees who are AAMI members, and there were some hiccups with that process. We want to give them what they want: to be empowered to make their own changes.
We have two primary goals with IT: to make them streamlined and easy to use for members and customers, and to help us grow as an organization.
HCB News: In what ways has AAMI switched gears to support its members during the pandemic?
SC: Before answering that, I want to thank everyone in healthcare for everything they have done during the pandemic. We on the AAMI team are proud to represent them — from the manufacturers of technology to the hospital workers, who have been truly heroic.
Just after the pandemic hit a year ago, the AAMI leadership team began meeting early each morning to coordinate our response. The question was always: “what can we do to help?”
In response, we created a central area of the AAMI website where we house all resources designed to help in the pandemic. We made relevant helpful standards free. We created new standards specifically designed to help during the pandemic. We organized and hosted several webinars to share best practices and experiences. We shared educational content with local educators who were forced to teach virtually.
HCB News: Can you share some of the key initiatives AAMI will be focusing on over the next year?
SC: We have several major initiatives that will be launched this year. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor has approved a new AAMI apprenticeship program designed to help hospitals standardize and elevate the level of training of entry-level of biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs). Of course, many BMETs are trained at some great schools. Others are trained on the job, and this apprenticeship program is designed to help the latter.
Another major HTM project this year is an overhaul of our HTM Levels Guide, which will be offered for the first time as an online, interactive resource. It’s also an effort to help strengthen and elevate the field.
In September, we will also host the 4th International Clinical Engineering and Health Technology Management Congress in Florida. We organized this event with the Clinical Engineering Division of IFMBE; and it will focus on clinical engineering through an international lens, bringing together leading experts from across the globe.
HCB News: Other than the pandemic, what key challenges do AAMI members face?
SC: The AAMI membership is quite diverse, so the challenges really depend on the member. For our manufacturers, regulatory issues and global harmonization is always very important. They are also very interested in making sure AAMI’s standards development process is efficient. In the HTM area, AAMI continues to step up our efforts to promote the field as a career option and strengthen the recognition of the field to clinicians and the C-suite and resources available to all.
HCB News: Who should consider membership in AAMI?
SC: One of AAMI’s strengths is our diversity of members. That’s essential to everything we do — developing standards and educational events and facilitating network events and information sharing. So anyone engaged in healthcare technology — from researchers, manufacturers, and regulators to clinicians, engineers, technicians and students — should be part of the AAMI community.
HCB News: Two of the big topics in healthcare in recent years are AI and big data. Have either of those areas resulted in big discussions for AAMI?
SC: Our vice president of innovation is tackling both those topics. Discussions about machine learning, AI in medical devices, and big data all feed into our standards program’s newly formed AAMI AI Committee, our conference planning, and our webinars. We’re also looking at it from a strategic standpoint to determine how those technologies will affect our field and what we can do to address them.
HCB News: Tell us about the decision to turn the AAMI Exchange into a virtual conference this year.
SC: It was a tough decision. We all see progress relative to the pandemic and vaccine rollout. That said, we just aren’t there yet in terms of safety. Many of our speakers and attendees are facing travel bans with their employer, and the conference center has very tight limitations on the use of space. Bottom line: it all came down to whether we could have a viable conference that would ensure the safety of our attendees. Though we would have liked to have come together in person, we are enthusiastic about the unique opportunities of a virtual Exchange.
HCB News: What are you most looking forward to at the conference?
SC: I do not want this to be just another virtual event. We’ve had enough of those after one year of the pandemic! So, our energy and the incredible support of our community is now focused on making an innovative, practical, and special event. We’re working hard with our presenters, exhibitors, sponsors, main stage speakers, and AAMI staff to create five days of programming, featuring live broadcasts from AAMI headquarters and around the country. We’ll be presenting live interviews with HTM thought leaders, product demos, audience Q&A, and much more.
I am also looking forward to connecting with our community and hearing what they think of this format. The Exchange has always been about networking and the sharing of great ideas and that will continue online.