In a 90-minute conference call on August 6, 2013, biomedical technicians and clinical engineers from around the United States discussed the possibility of forming a new umbrella organization for existing regional biomed groups.

The conference call was organized and moderated by Patrick Lynch, CBET, CCE, of Global Medical Imaging, Charlotte, NC. His aim, as he described it in an introductory email, was to ask whether it is time to start “a strong national association that has local affiliates, not independent associations which are loosely tied to the national organization, but a strong national association that could handle almost all administrative, record keeping, legal, and tax issues, leaving the local chapter with very limited responsibilities, such as holding local face-to-face events.”

Although there are a significant number of existing local and regional associations of biomeds, Lynch stated that “many parts of the US are not served by any local association.” In addition, he said, “Many others have local associations that are not active. Still others areas are too distant and, although served by a local association, many biomeds cannot travel to meetings.”

During the phone call, Lynch invited callers from around the country to speak briefly about their positions on creating a new organization. Although there was broad support for the idea, the expectations for a new association varied widely. While some speakers argued for regulatory and lobbying functions, others focused on providing support for local biomed groups and an inexpensive dues structure.

James Knight of the California Medical Instrumentation Association said that a national umbrella group would help in two ways: “We need a stronger voice when governing bodies make decisions [in which] we have no feedback, and second, this will help training and education programs be better distributed across the nation.”

Another speaker spoke in support of creating “an entity where the individual could go to belong to something that would give them the same level of support that they could get from one of the regional groups,” rather than replicating the functions of existing groups like AAMI or META. Similarly, Joe DeVito of the Intermountain Clinical Instrumentation Society liked “the idea of sharing resources nationwide, but would not want another AAMI.”

On the other hand, Dustin Telford, CBET, Salt Lake City, noted that “a concern with chapterizing is whether we lose our local flavor. We all struggle with how we run our local groups, but there are some wonderful things that local associations do out there.”

Throughout the discussion there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with AAMI. Towards the end of the call, Steve Campbell, AAMI Senior VP of Communications, stated that he was on the call to listen, to “figure out how we can help,” and to determine “what needs are not being met” by his organization. He added that AAMI is looking into affordable associate memberships and “other ways to make it easier to join.”

At the conclusion of the call, Karen Waninger, Clinical Engineering Director at Community Health Network, Indianopolis, said that while similar efforts to form a dedicated national organization for biomeds have been made to no avail in the past, “we are in a different time than before … there is interest now.”

In a follow-up to the call, Lynch said that he has made a written summary of the call available,  along with a recording.