By Clarice M.L. Holden, BSE

What’s the world’s largest professional organization of biomedical engineers? Is there more than one way to engage in health information technology synergy? If healthcare technology management (HTM) professionals want to improve their knowledge about the practice and theory of biomedical engineering, where should they turn?

Clarice M.L. Holden

Clarice M.L. Holden, BSE

Professional organizations are key to answering these questions and more. The ability to network with likeminded professionals, have access to key industry resources, read publications available only to members, and provide input back to the field in a meaningful way are all benefits of professional organizations. There are many to choose from, and some have overlapping features. Professional organizations can also have expensive membership fees, so it is important to make sure that the organizations you join are going to provide dividends.

There may be some HTM associations than you’re not aware of, however. Let’s look at comparing some of the most eminent professional organizations with those that may not be as prominent in the mind of the everyday biomed.

Breaking Them Down

Perhaps the most well-known HTM organizations are AAMI and the American College of Clinical Engineering (ACCE). These two groups focus almost entirely on leveraging medical technology in the field—either in the industry or in healthcare institutions (hospitals, clinics, etc.)—in order to increase patient safety and efficacy of care. Each also supports professional-level certifications—promoting career development for their members and the HTM field at large.

While AAMI was founded in 1967, ACCE is a newer organization, launching in 1990. AAMI membership consists of many groups involved in HTM, including not only engineers and technicians, but also physicians, nurses, administrators, regulators, scientists, manufacturers, and educators. ACCE membership, however, consists predominantly of clinical engineers and technicians who are actively working or have worked at least three years in clinical engineering.

Back to those questions posed earlier: Surprisingly, the largest professional organization of biomedical engineers internationally is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (IEEE EMBS). This group represents more than 11,000 engineers globally (compared to AAMI’s membership of roughly 7,000) and seeks to “advance medicine, biology, healthcare, and well-being through the application of engineering and data sciences and technology; promote the profession of biomedical engineering; foster professional development and recognize excellence; present conferences that bring together scientists, engineers, and physicians from multiple disciplines to disseminate knowledge and solve complex problems; establish technical standards; [and] provide global leadership for the profession.”

According to society statistics, 52% of the group consists of academic institution-affiliated members and 46% of IEEE EMBS members work in the industry.

As far as engaging in health information technology synergy, a biomed does not need to look any further than the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA). Both of these non-profit organizations have thousands of members who work in hospitals and perform research on connecting information (i.e., data—and, to another extent, technology) with improving the efficacy of healthcare.

HIMSS consists of members from many different professions and represents one of the largest professional organizations in existence, with 70,000 members (45,000 in its North American chapter alone).

AMIA’s mission is straightforward: to “improve health through informatics education, science, and practice.” And HIMSS’ is as well: “Globally, lead endeavors optimizing health engagements and care outcomes through information and technology.”

On the theory and practice of biomedical engineering, ACCE, AAMI, the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), and the American Society of Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) are the premier sources. These groups keep abreast of the current innovations in the healthcare environment, as well as trends in HTM, by soliciting articles and publishing research from members in the field.

Decisions, Decisions

In conclusion, membership in a professional organization is an excellent way to continuously learn about HTM. Keeping the natural curiosity and desire to grow in HTM can help to increase a person’s satisfaction and interest in their job, which keeps the experience new and encourages industry-improving innovation.

When deciding which association to join, remember to analyze what you are looking for in a professional organization: such as continuous learning opportunities, volunteer opportunities, networking, and access to trade publications and best practice materials or publications.

Students are in a convenient position in regards to professional organizations—all ones mentioned have discounts for student members. Taking advantage of the discounted memberships can be a perfect launch point for reviewing job postings, setting up mentoring or shadowing opportunities, and gaining access to members-only published materials. These benefits are also available to professional members, just at the (generally higher) individual rate.

No matter your career stage or position in the industry or academia, a professional organization can bolster your understanding of HTM, provide networking opportunities, and help you become a more well-rounded professional. And doing the research and discovering which aspects of an organization you would most make use of can help save money and time when you decide to purchase that membership.

See below for an exclusive spreadsheet that breaks down several key associations.

Clarice M.L. Holden, BSE, is supervisory biomedical engineer, Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, and a member of 24×7 Magazine’s editorial board. 

**Editor’s note: Read why fellow 24×7 Magazine editorial board member Patrick Lynch—as well as the founder of Make HTM Great Again—advocates for the formation of a national biomedical association here.**

Organization Full Name Mission Statement Number of Members Founded Annual Conference
AAMI Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation AAMI provides global leadership to support the healthcare community in the development, management, and use of safe and effective healthcare technology. ~7,000 1967 June 1-4, 2018
ACCE American College of Clinical Engineers ?To establish a standard of competence and to promote excellence in clinical engineering practice, To promote safe and effective application of science and technology in patient care, To define the body of knowledge on which the profession is based, and To represent the professional interests of clinical engineers. Not Available 1990 N/A
AMIA American Medical Informatics Association Improve health through informatics education, science and practice >5,400 1988 November 3-7, 2018
ASHE American Society of Healthcare Engineering Dedicated to optimizing the health care physical environment. >12,000 Not Available. July 15-18, 2018
BMES Biomedical Engineering Society The Mission of the BMES is to build and support the biomedical engineering community, locally, nationally and internationally, with activities designed to communicate recent advances, discoveries, and inventions; promote education and professional development; and integrate the perspectives of the academic, medical, governmental, and business sectors. 7,000 1968 October 17-20, 2018
HIMSS North America Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Globally, lead endeavors optimizing health engagements and care outcomes through information and technology. 70,000 1961 March 5-9, 2018
IEEE – EMBS Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society The IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society benefits both humanity and its members by: advancing medicine, biology, healthcare and well-being through the application of engineering and data sciences and technology; promoting the profession of biomedical engineering, fostering professional development and recognizing excellence; presenting conferences that bring together scientists, engineers and physicians from multiple disciplines to disseminate knowledge and solve complex problems; establishing technical standards; providing global leadership for the profession. 11,000 Not Available. July 17-21, 2018