During my time at AAMI, I have noticed a lot of confusion surrounding the term “healthcare technology management/HTM.” The most fundamental way of explaining how and when to use the term is to understand that it represents a rebranding of the overarching name for the field or an individual hospital-based department.
Other common overarching names have included clinical engineering and “biomed.” Confusion can result from different generations and geographical areas around the world using these different names (i.e., HTM, clinical engineering, or biomed) to reference the field or their department.
HTM should not be used to refer to individual job titles—it was not meant to replace titles such as biomedical equipment technician (BMET), clinical engineer, capital planner, or cybersecurity specialist. For instance, we're not “HTMers.” We are clinical engineers and BMETs who work in an HTM department. Because the roles and education required of clinical engineers and BMETs differ greatly, we do not want to mesh them together. A clear distinction exists between these two job titles, and we should respect that.
Referring to ourselves with a slang term, such as biomed, seems a bit underwhelming and does not really encompass all the complex work we perform.
In addition, HTM often is used much too broadly. HTM professionals are fully integrated members of the healthcare delivery team and have significant influence in managing the selection, maintenance, and safe and effective use of health technology. HTM does not encompass the medical device industry (research and development and manufacturing), research, or regulatory settings. The only exception to this would be OEM (original equipment manufacturer) field service engineers who work closely with a hospital's HTM department. This job would fall under the HTM umbrella.
Making these distinctions is important, as I have encountered student interns thinking they would be spending the summer playing with mice or creating a new medical device. If we do not use the term correctly, we set a false expectation.
The term HTM originated in 2011, when AAMI called together a diverse group of 30 professionals from across the country to identify a unified name and vision for the field. The professional pipeline was identified as a major challenge, and considering the technological shift toward medical systems and away from individual devices, the work of our field was being (and continues to be) drastically redefined. We were no longer just a break/fix shop in the hospital's basement.
The group sought a new name that was accurate, easily understood by the public and other healthcare workers, and allowed for expansion of the field in the future. In selecting the name and outlining the vision, some of the more critical elements of common ground identified by the meeting participants included managing the full life cycle of healthcare technology, partnering with healthcare providers, and managing healthcare technology beyond the walls of healthcare organizations (e.g., in the home healthcare setting). From this meeting, the term healthcare technology management/HTM came to life.
The HTM field works on highly sophisticated systems, assists hospital administration and healthcare providers select new equipment, finds solutions to patient safety issues by constantly looking for new ways to optimize or integrate technology, and is at the forefront of risk analysis and medical device investigations when technology does not work as it should. For such an exciting and involved profession, referring to ourselves with a slang term, such as biomed, seems a bit underwhelming and does not really encompass all the complex work we perform.
Hopefully that clears up some confusion, as well as instills pride and enthusiasm among those of us working in the amazing profession that is HTM!