By Jenny Lower

With its reorganization late last year, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) now has a new chief operating officer: former head of marketing Steve Campbell. He takes on this new leadership role with a biomed field in flux, an industry in the throes of reform, and an organization boldly making the case for its own future. 24×7 spoke to Campbell about his plans for handling these challenges, his take on the profession, and his top priorities for 2013.

24×7: How is the reorganization helping AAMI position itself to address changes in the biomedical industry?

Campbell: Like all organizations, AAMI has evolved over the years as technology, priorities, and the needs of AAMI members have changed. As a result, the AAMI leadership decided to take a broad look at AAMI member needs and how AAMI staff could best meet those needs. In turn, a few high-level staff positions were eliminated to free up financial resources and fund staff positions that will help us grow AAMI’s educational programs, certification, and benchmarking initiatives, along with our publications and membership.

24×7: You transitioned from the chief communications and marketing officer to head of operations. What are your goals for your new position?

Campbell: Some of my goals probably wouldn’t be thrilling to your readers, but they are important to AAMI as an organization. For example, I have some major goals to increase the AAMI membership and make sure we are in strong financial shape so we can fund all of our member benefits and new ones. I also have a number of IT-related goals to modernize the way we conduct business and improve and expand our online resources.

In addition, I have some very concrete goals for the healthcare technology management (HTM) community in 2014. For example, we are developing a career ladder for biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) and clinical engineers. It will be a practical document that can be used to determine what experience is needed to advance in the field and where that experience can be found. We’ll also be working to increase educational programs that produce clinical engineers, developing new employment surveys, creating a new mentorship program, strengthening our benchmarking resources, and all the education we offer in the IT and HTM areas. We’re also redoubling our efforts to promote the HTM field. We need to do a lot more to get the word out to hospital executives, students, and others that technicians and engineers are vital members of the team.

We have a long way to go—we still have a lot to do to promote the HTM field. But we started from scratch, and I think we’ve made great progress. And there’s no doubt in my mind that it is the result of incredible volunteer AAMI leaders like Carol Davis-Smith, Ray Laxton, Larry Hertzler, Dave Francoeur, Karen Waninger, Heidi Horn, Paul Kelley, Steve Yelton, Barb Christie, Al Gresch, Ken Maddock, and so many others. They have done the heavy lifting, and they inspire.

SteveCampbellx100 A Quick Take

24×7: How did you get into the biomedical field?

Campbell: I’m actually a journalist by trade. Before AAMI I was responsible for providing news coverage from the White House, Congress, and national healthcare and other issues through the 1990s. I joined AAMI in 2000 as managing editor of AAMI’s journal, BI&T, and worked my way up from there.

Over time, I was given added authority at AAMI to become AAMI’s primary contact for technology management issues, helping to create AAMI’s Technology Management Council (TMC), creating the national recognition week for the field, salary surveys, top issues surveys, promotion of the field, IT webinars in collaboration with ACCE and HIMSS, outreach to biomed associations, and creation of a scholarship fund.

24×7: This is a critical time for biomeds. What do you see as the major issues for the field and for AAMI’s members?

Campbell: AAMI and other groups can help get the word out about the HTM field. But it’s incredibly important that BMETs, clinical engineers, and other professionals in the HTM field demonstrate their own value locally and rethink and expand their roles. The bottom line is that HTM professionals are important whether they are advising on the purchase, management, or repair of technologies or training staff. We need to continually reinforce that BMETs and CEs are at the heart of creating a safe, high-quality environment for patient care amid tightening resources. It’s a mistake if a department views itself solely as a fix-it shop. HTM departments are so much more than that, and when departments step up to the plate, they earn the respect. That’s the key: You can’t just ask for respect. We all need to earn it.

And it probably goes without saying, but it’s essential that HTM work closely with IT to ensure high standards and best practices in safety, security, interoperability, and systems-related challenges.

24×7: Which types of positions does AAMI plan to add in the near future?

Campbell: Thanks to the AAMI Board, we’ve been given the go-ahead to increase staff to help meet some important AAMI member needs. For example, we are hiring staff to devote more time to expand our benchmarking resources, to develop more publications and resources, to expand our certification program, and to provide more online education. The bottom line is that AAMI is in a strong position to expand our benefits to meet the needs of AAMI members and the community, and it’s thanks to current and past AAMI leaders and staff who have helped provide the resources to fund some important programs this year.

24×7: Tell us about plans for AAMI University. What is the aim of the program?

Campbell: AAMI University is a new AAMI educational initiative that will launch in 2014. Details will be announced in the next few months, but I can give you a sneak peek by saying that AAMI University will include courses that can be accessed digitally and at the convenience of the students. Much of the programming is being developed in close consultation with industry leaders, including the FDA, The Joint Commission, and other organizations and subject matter experts. The courses will be peer-reviewed to ensure that content meets and exceeds the intended learning objectives. So stay tuned, and more details will be announced soon.

24×7: What other projects are in the works at AAMI that would be of interest to HTM professionals in 2014?

Campbell: There’s a lot in the pipeline. For example, with the help of AAMI’s Technology Management Council (TMC), we are developing a checklist of responsibilities for HTM departments to help standardize the key roles of departments, and to identify key additional responsibilities that could be assumed to elevate their roles in a hospital if the opportunity and resources permit. The guide will also include links to helpful resources that may be needed to provide guidance to a department on how to meet a responsibility. Three veteran clinical engineers—Ted Cohen, Frank Painter, and Matt Baretich—are leading this project with this help of AAMI’s TMC. Along those lines, we are collaborating with ECRI Institute on developing and promoting a document in 2014 that will encourage hospital executives to call on the strong talents of clinical engineers and biomedical equipment technicians, and to elevate their roles.

Also in 2014, the CE-IT Community—which AAMI helps to coordinate—will conduct six free CE-IT Town Hall meetings. If you haven’t heard of them before, these Town Hall meetings are 90-minute, online, IT-related sessions moderated by Elliot Sloane and focusing on a specific IT issue important to clinical engineers, biomedical equipment technicians, and IT personnel. Our goal, working with colleagues at the American College of Clinical Engineering (ACCE) and HIMSS, is to bring our members together to provide educational resources to advance healthcare.

The TMC will also celebrate its 10-year anniversary in 2014, so we’ll be conducting a number of special educational and celebratory events throughout the year in conjunction with AAMI’s effort to promote the HTM field and all the great work of clinical engineers and biomedical equipment technicians. Along those lines, you may want to mark your calendar—National Healthcare Technology Management Appreciation Week is May 18–24. We’ll hold a number of events to celebrate and recognize all the work of technicians and engineers in healthcare. 24×7

Jenny Lower is associate editor for 24×7. For more information, contact [email protected].