by Lauren Dubinsky
, Senior Reporter | May 07, 2018
As medical equipment becomes more software-based, hospital health technology management (HTM) and information technology (IT) departments are being asked to work more effectively together. This can present some unusual challenges, and things don’t always go according to plan.
“Historically, clinical engineering and biomedical people do not take direction well from people not within their own profession,” Patrick Lynch, a veteran clinical engineer who now runs his own HTM consulting firm, told HealthCare Business News. “They tend to want to be autonomous to decide what needs to be done to the equipment and how to do it.”
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Many IT professionals are taking on supervisory roles in HTM departments and, in some cases, have almost complete control over how business is done. They are in charge of the budget, what software is implemented and the scope of services that HTM provides to the hospital.
“The easiest thing is to make HTM a part of IT, because IT has become the 800-pound gorilla in terms of technology and technology support,” explained Stephen Grimes, managing partner at Strategic Healthcare Technology Associates LLC. “Healthcare institutions are much more familiar with IT, and it tends to have been much better resourced over the past 20 to 30 years.”
The relationship between the two departments is often problematic because certain details aren’t considered in the integration process. According to Grimes, “One of the greatest needs that exists is for service management guidelines and standards that spell out how these groups should work together.”
Fortunately, resources exist that can be used as a template for this kind of integration.
The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) guide describes how to create an effective service management program by focusing on incident, problem, security, configuration and financial management, as well as negotiating service level agreements, according to Grimes. He also cites the ISO/IEC 20000 document and the Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT) framework as other standards that healthcare organizations can use to develop a service management program.
How to do it right
At Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a national health system based in Denver, CO, a good example of IT working with the HTM department concerns the installation of software updates.
According to Patrick J. Harning, division vice president of physical asset services-clinical engineering at CHI, collaborating on these upgrades is important for preventing unexpected equipment shutdowns that could compromise patient care.