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Clinical engineering in an age of reform

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | May 30, 2013
From the May 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine


Dale Hockel: I would say it’s mixed. For one of our major customers, we just shifted over to the CIO, but there are still many other customers who have not changed that reporting structure. Because of health care reform and financial pressures, there’s still a high emphasis on reporting to the CFO and COO.

Heidi Horn: It is unfortunate, but it has been my experience that many CE and IT departments simply don’t trust in each other’s abilities. In general terms, CE people view IT people as being disconnected from the patient and lacking a sense of urgency or willingness to fix it themselves (versus calling a vendor). IT people view CE people as “wrench turners” who are not as well-educated as they are and reluctant to follow proper processes. Like all stereotypes, there may be some people who match this description but many others do not.


There is also an undeclared turf war going on between CE and IT departments. More and more devices/systems and clinical software packages are falling into that “gray zone,” where they’re not exactly a standalone medical device but they’re not strictly an IT system either. Which department steps up to the plate to manage these systems will determine whether the HTM department is run by people with a CE background with IT expertise or IT people who have learned to manage CE. Regardless, there is no denying it is in the best interest of the hospital if both departments are working closely and harmoniously together. While many hospitals have managed to forge an alliance between CE and IT without having both parties report to the same boss, it seems to be the exception more than the rule. Because of the cultural differences and inherent turf battles, I think having a single leader over both functions makes integration smoother. It ensures more alignment with priorities and a single point for escalating issues. Because the CIO in traditional hospitals and systems typically outranks the CE leaders due to FTE count and budget, they usually are given the job of managing both.

Scott Bosch: I work for the engineering and maintenance department; the director of engineering and maintenance, he reports to the VP for real estate support, and he reports to the CIO. It has been a trend in the past several years that CE and IT departments merge or their leadership is reorganized, or the leader of IT is leading the biomed department. It certainly has pros and cons. I like the idea of working with IT on projects, on the capital analysis and the resource request. But I’m also happy to work with the capital maintenance department.

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