Pat Lynch

Patrick Lynch

I have a hobby: watching how the HTM community reacts to various stimuli. Obamacare, Y2K, corporate mergers, major recalls, the rise of multivendor services, Joint Commission changes, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services missteps, IT takeovers, national recessions—these all have direct and not-so-direct effects on healthcare, and in turn, our industry.

One of the main ways I keep tabs on our industry is by following the 45 or so different biomedical associations in the United States. Some are statewide; others are regional. But similarities exist between all biomed associations—with a key being that they all have Web sites. Many of them use free software and the services of a volunteer member to keep their content current. Like all things, this may work for a certain period of time, but it eventually becomes a burden on the Webmaster. After all, it can be real chore to find someone willing to take over when the Webmaster tires or retires. For this reason, drag-and-drop software, such as Wild Apricot’s fee-based service, is a good option because it allows multiple people to administer the Web site.

Another thing all associations have in common is meetings—although the frequency of them varies widely. Some meet monthly or quarterly throughout the year, while others only meet face-to-face at their annual symposium (eg, the North Carolina Biomedical Association (NCBA) and the Healthcare Technology Management Association of South Carolina). Others regularly meet but don’t have an annual symposium, such as the Michigan Society for Clinical Engineering and the East Tennessee Biomedical Association.

Of the organizations with monthly meetings, holiday parties, and summer outings, the Baltimore Medical Engineers and Technicians Society (BMETS) is arguably one of the best. Holiday parties and May flings are regular events for BMETS, and there is a queue of companies in line to help them pay the bills. The Colorado Association of Biomedical Equipment Technicians (CABMET) also offers fun events at its annual meeting, with a banquet held at the Children’s Hospital Colorado each year. Once the daily sessions are over, the biomeds go home and return with their spouses and children. Not only is it fun for the whole family, it’s a great way to show appreciation to the families who support us when we have to work long hours or answer that midnight call.

Many associations combine a recreational event with their annual or monthly meeting, with card tournaments a particularly popular activity. (But, let’s face it, they were much more popular when the famous Manny Roman was at more events.) Golf outings are also a favorite, especially at the Florida Biomedical Society and NCBA meetings because of the ability to play at Disney and Pinehurst golf courses.

Benefits of Membership

Below are some other ways associations benefit members:

Education: Most associations have guest speakers at their meetings—many of which are from industry companies. It goes like this: The company hosts the meetings, pays for the venue, and buys a meal in exchange for the privilege of presenting their story for the evening. It’s explained to the company that it will have 10 or 15 minutes at the beginning or end to speak directly about its product or service offering, but that the bulk of the evening’s message should be generic in nature and provide useful knowledge to attendees. Occasionally, I’ve seen companies’ presentations rejected because they couldn’t meet these low hurdles.

Local news: News about recent Joint Commission or DNV Healthcare surveys, or state surveys that might affect everyone in the room are shared. And, of course, job openings and recent moves are announced. Also, problems with local vendors are discussed.

Web site: Associations present themselves to the world via their Web sites. And while I visit most Web sites, I’m shocked by the lack of diversity among them. For one thing, many of their Web sites have a front page—which often hasn’t been updated in months—that announces upcoming meetings, conferences, and educational offerings. There’s also a page about the officers and board of directors, which may also be outdated and lacking any relevant contact information. An online form and either a Paypal account or mailing address details the payment method. And if there’s an annual event, there are often pictures and information about the most recent one.

Information about the next annual meeting may also be on the Web site. Some association Web sites even link to other associations’ Web pages or general biomedical resources.

Only a very few associations do anything outside of these very basic core provisions. Of the standouts: the North Texas Biomedical Association has links to service manuals and parts resources, and the California Medical Instrumentation Association has videos and resources to promote the profession. Finally, CABMET produces and franchises a CBET study program that is being used by many associations across the country.

In the next installment of The LynchPin, I will present a new framework that will allow associations to select an area of specialization. That way, they can become the single resource for the entire profession.

Patrick Lynch, CBET, CCE, CHTM, CPHIMS, FACCE, is a biomedical manager with 40 years’ experience. For more information, contact chief editor Jenny Lower at [email protected]