By Patrick Lynch, CBET, CCE, CHTM, CPHIMS, FACCE
It’s about time that biomedical associations developed a reason for existing. Sure, we all hold meetings now and again. Some of us have newsletters; some of us have annual conferences. And some of us even have social outings.
Now let’s take a look at our Web sites. These are our front pages to the world—how we present ourselves to everyone. We are judged by our Web site’s appearance, how frequently it’s updated, and the content on it. But as someone who routinely visits nearly all of these Web sites, I’ve noticed a pattern among them.
Different Associations, Same Content
Biomed association Web sites do a lot of the same things: They have a way to join. They announce future meetings—although this information is often outdated. They have a list of sponsors—usually with logos and contact information. They might have a list of members. They sometimes have photos of past events. Often, they have links to Web sites of interest to biomeds. They always have a list of officers and board members— sometimes even the past leadership. Many have copies of their bylaws available for download.
I understand that biomed associations are made up of unpaid volunteers, who have full-time jobs, family responsibilities, and personal commitments. Optional activities understandably take a backseat to the more important things—like earning a living and keeping the family happy and taken care of. It is no wonder that our organizations often perform just the bare minimum, especially when only about 10%—and I’m being generous here—of the membership are regular contributors.
But let’s face it: How much would it hurt our members if we all just ceased to exist and all they had to rely on was the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) for information, resources, and jobs listings? I suspect that the quality and cost of health care wouldn’t suffer all that much.
So, how can we transform ourselves so that we can really make a difference? In a word: specialization. Take the Colorado Association of Biomedical Equipment Technicians (CABMET), for example. CABMET has chosen to specialize in CBET examination preparation and exports information about it to the rest of the societies. It’s something CABMET does well. They make money from it. And a lot of BMETs are grateful for their efforts.
To my knowledge, no other association has chosen to embark on such a focused specialization as CABMET. But what if every association in the US chose to become a custodian for a very focused set of information that is important to biomeds? They would, of course, continue with their local activities—but they could expand to develop a function that would be of use and value to the entire profession.
A Better Scenario
Here’s how it could work: Each association could declare itself a specialist in a certain area. The association would then decide how to collect and organize the information, and build a mechanism so that the information could be accessed and retrieved. Then, they would set up a Web site and repository to gather and organize the collected information. Each association wouldn’t necessarily have to collect every piece of data needed by each biomed, but it would serve as the starting point for anyone who has a need in that area, with pointers; URLs; and names, e-mails, and phone numbers of people, companies, and Web sites that can help them. That’s what is needed.
All biomeds in the country would send pertinent information to the association that collects that type of data. That way, whenever a biomed needs something, he/she would first go to the association that keeps that information.
Below are some possible areas specializations and data collection:
- Policies and procedures: Collecting sets of hospital HTM policies and procedures would help people tasked with writing new policies. I frequently receive requests for sample policies for hospitals to use as a template to create their
- Authorities having jurisdiction: It’s often hard of keep up with the state agencies who have legal control of the various parts of a hospital—radiology, lab, environmental, etc.
- Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) listings, recent evaluations, and current users: Somebody always needs a reference or a question answered. As new features, linkages, and functionalities are added, a central summary area for all to view would be nice. The companies that own the CMMS’ could be partners.
- A master biomed association list and Web site: Although AAMI has a pretty good one, an association could take on the role of policing it to make sure that it’s always current and accurate.
- Medical equipment nomenclature listing: (Maybe in conjunction with the ECRI Institute).This is one of the most frustrating areas of our profession—what do we call the devices that we work on?
- End-of-life database: The Medical Equipment & Technology Association used to have this when Masterplan supported them. This would be a much-used resource.
- PM procedures, laboratory
- PM procedures, radiology: Collecting or pointing to manufacturer procedures would help hospitals meet the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS’_ requirements.
- PM procedures, general
- Manuals, operators: Although they’re easy to find, they require going to many different manufacturer’s Web sites. One-stop shopping would be useful.
- Manuals, service: There are lots of pockets of manuals around the world; having pointers to them all would be a great service.
- Certification, CBET: CABMET could continue collecting all the information about this subject.
- Certification, certified healthcare technology manager: This service would be a major benefit to everyone in the profession.
- Regulatory compliance: CMS, the Joint Commission, and DNV GL
- Training resources
- Technical experts around the country
- Job openings: AAMI has the most complete list, but there may be room for some additional listings—perhaps from smaller companies unable to pay a fee.
This list includes just a few of the possible areas of specialization. Personally, I hope every association places this article before their entire board and makes it an agenda item at their next meeting. I would love to see every association volunteer take on one of the above roles in order to benefit the profession and give their association a reason for existing beyond their state boundaries.
Please feel free to call me at 704-941-0116 to discuss this or have me attend your board meeting via phone.
Patrick Lynch, CBET, CCE, CHTM, CPHIMS, FACCE, is a biomedical manager with 40 years of experience.