Head to Washington, DC, to learn about the latest technologies, exchange ideas, and network with colleagues at the annual conference & expo

When the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) Conference & Expo kicks off in Washington, DC, later this month, the key word will be “interaction.” The conference, taking place June 24–26 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, will provide participants with a greater chance than ever before to take part in instructional sessions, exhibits, and certification classes.

Whether it is a senior Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) official answering presubmitted questions, or hands-on demonstrations of wireless health care systems, attendees will be able to get involved. Perhaps the most significant interpersonal element of all, however, will be the unparalleled opportunity the conference will provide for biomeds, clinical engineers, and medical-technology professionals to network with their peers.

Years from now, many will recall AAMI 2006 as the place where professional ties were strengthened and working relationships began. As Greer Galavis, sales support representative for InterMed Biomedical Services Inc and InterMed NucMed Inc (Alachua, Fla), puts it, “I talk to so many of these people on the phone every day. This will be a great chance to say ‘hi’ in person.”

Galavis has been looking forward for a while now to her first AAMI conference. As an AAMI newcomer, the closest direct experience she has to the show is what her InterMed colleagues tell her. And that is positive indeed. “Everyone at my company talks about what a great experience this event is,” Galavis says. Plus, she’s not going to miss out on the opportunity to take in some of the DC landmarks. “The last time I was in Washington,” Galavis laughs, “I was 5 years old.”

Brainstorming and Camaraderie
Veteran participants will also have the opportunity to experience camaraderie unique to the forum. Longtime colleagues can brainstorm, chitchat, and maybe share a few laughs in a professionally nourishing environment. Mary Coker, CBET, of Master Plan (Chatsworth, Calif), is a veteran who has missed only a couple of the AAMI Conferences since the inaugural event took place in 1967.

When Coker flies across the country visiting various health care facilities in the course of her work, she is too busy to keep up with the valued associates she can now talk to face to face. That’s why AAMI 2006 will be a very special event for her. As she puts it, “If you don’t touch base with these people to exchange ideas, you get so out of touch with what’s going on out there that you get in your own little world. For those of us who have been in this field for a while, the important thing is keeping up with our colleagues that we don’t have a chance to see or even talk to during the year.”

A professional who has attained a place of notable achievement in her work, Coker also appreciates the chance to share the benefit of her experience with newer members of the profession. This year, she is one of the presenters at Sunday’s session, “How to Incorporate Training and Continuing Education into the Evolving BMET Career.”

A sampling of other sessions under the headings of patient safety, business and management, imaging, information technology, and technical operations and support include such titles as, “Streamlining Techniques and Tools for Incoming Medical Equipment,” “Fundamentals of Injectors,” “An Introduction to the FDA’s MedSun Program,” “Designing a Wireless Technology Infrastructure,” and “Taking Control of Your Wireless Spectrum.”

Many, like Galavis, will undoubtedly also take advantage of the conference’s locale to tour the nation’s capital. With so many excited about visiting DC, 24×7 got to wondering: How will the “locals” attending AAMI 2006 spend their free time? Well at least one area resident seems to have the problem solved. Christopher L. Jones, Sr, BMET, MCP, biomedical computed tomography specialist in the clinical engineering department of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center (Baltimore), is not going to have very much free time to spend!

All six of the technicians in Jones’ shop will be at the AAMI show. The close proximity of the nation’s capital makes attending the obvious choice. Jones, to his credit, is taking advantage of his “home-court advantage” to make others feel welcome. As a member of the Baltimore Medical Engineers and Technicians Society, which will have a booth at the expo, he is volunteering to “meet and greet” at his society’s open house on Saturday night. After being made to feel at home at previous AAMI shows, Jones is now doing his part to roll out the welcome mat.

Opportunities for Growth
Perhaps the most important part of this year’s activities for Jones, however, will be the BMET review taking place from 8: 30 am to 5:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday. He is taking his CRES exam this year, so the 2-day program will provide an invaluable opportunity to prepare for the test.

With all that on his plate, Jones will still find time to see what some of his colleagues have been up to. Even though he was at last year’s AAMI Conference in Tampa, Fla, not all of his old buddies were. Maybe that will change with this year’s event. Echoing Coker, Jones is planning on connecting with some of those folks he knows will be attending, who he does not ordinarily get a chance to see. Beyond the 2 days of solid review work, Jones is looking forward to “just catching up with friends,” he says. He sees it as a chance to casually reunite for a while. “Nothing more than, ‘what have you been doing for the last few years?’ ”

That said, there is a good reason so many like-minded professionals will be in the same place at the same time. No other event covers such a broad spectrum of technological and regulatory issues of interest to the biomedical professional. In the 31/2 decades since it began, the conference has evolved to keep pace with the wide range of technical subjects and workplace issues biomedical professionals deal with on the job. Whether it is educating attendees about the latest developments in information technology, or responding to questions about regulations affecting workplace standards, the AAMI Conference & Expo has remained flexible in its effort to most efficiently provide specialized sessions that address the concerns of individual participants.

24×7 had the opportunity to talk to Steve Campbell, vice president of communications and marketing at AAMI, about the comprehensive scope of AAMI 2006.

24×7: How many years has AAMI been holding this conference?

Campbell: The AAMI Annual Conference has taken place for 35 years.

24×7: How has it changed in focus from the first conferences?

Campbell: The quality of the program has increased substantially due to a higher level of speaker- and topic-selection process. Also, each year now, the content of educational sessions is at least 95% new or different than the year before. The exhibit program has grown too, due to recognition in the industry that the biomedical-technology professional is a main customer and has substantial influence over product purchases.

24×7: How has it grown with vendors and attendees?

Campbell: The 2005 program was one of the most well-attended programs AAMI has ever had, both in terms of the number of exhibitors and the attendees.

24×7: Are the new technologies presented different from those shown at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) meetings, or are they just new to this conference?

Campbell: The technologies presented in the AAMI exhibit hall include a much wider scope and breadth and cover all aspects of medical devices, including software, hardware, etc. The technologies at HIMSS focus primarily on those driving information technology and are very specific to the information-technology professional. The same is true of RSNA; most technologies are geared toward the radiological professional. The biomedical-technology professional needs to know much more than just one or two dimensions of medical devices. The technologies that are discussed at the AAMI conference and are displayed in the AAMI exhibit hall cover many technologies that cross several areas of medical care, from information technology and radiology to alarms, telemetry equipment, operating-room design and equipment, infusion systems, and much more. We also cover risk management, patient safety, JCAHO requirements, preventive maintenance, and much more.

24×7: What’s the buzz, or what product is generating the most interest?

Campbell: There are several, but wireless technology seems to have become a very big issue, especially in today’s information age. We cover that extensively at this year’s program. Also, JCAHO requirements are always of major importance to our audience. This year, we are including several opportunities for our attendees to ask their questions directly to a JCAHO representative in order to become better prepared for that next JCAHO survey.

24×7: What are AAMI’s expectations and goals for the event?

Campbell: We are confident that attendees will walk away with a solid and positive educational experience and learn ways to improve technology management at their employer organizations. These are professionals who have a direct impact on the quality of patient care, and we believe that what they learn at the AAMI Annual Conference can help them improve patient safety. It is important that attendees learn not only from the experts at the podium but also from each other. There really is no better way to do that than at the AAMI Annual Conference & Expo.

David Tandet is a contributing writer for 24×7.