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Blurring boundaries between IT and clinical/bio med engineering

July 17, 2008
by anonymous
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I have enjoyed following the varied responses to the JAMA article on EMI from RFID systems. From the clinical and biomedical engineering perspective, Paul Sherman who took the time to comment on my first blog entry and Barbara Christie from the Purdue School of Engineering had similar reactions. The JAMA study did not test real-life scenarios and therefore the results must be taken with a huge grain of salt. Christie who was interviewed by Wireless Healthcare last week announced that her study found no interference in 1,600 tests and has just been accepted for publication in Biomedical Instrumentation and Technology. Paul, with 18 years experience as a clinical engineer, indicated that EMI is not news to him.

To find out how the IT side felt about the news I was fortunate to have the Health Informatics survey results. Only one quarter of the responses (25 percent) indicated that the study would not impact the use of RFID, 42 percent did not know, and 33 percent said it would impact use.

There is clearly a knowledge/communication gap between the survey respondents (which I am assuming is mostly IT folks) and clinical/biomed engineers which needs to be addressed because IT and medical devices are becoming more integrated. Thanks to systems such as Capsule Technologies that connect devices with clinical system to import data or Ascom’s UNITE that route’s medical device alarms to wireless phones and badges, there is a strong need for the two groups to work together -- which blurs the boundaries between the two.

So what is the answer? Does it mean a direct reporting relationship, formal communications channels, or biomed representation on teams and committees? I have seen all of the above in different settings leading me to believe there is not one right answer. Rather – there’s one that works for each organization.

How does IT and Biomed engineering work together at your organization?

I will be on vacation until the first week in August. I look forward to reading your comments when I return!



What's interesting is that while all the CIOs, IT executives, and industry experts intreviewed for my upcoming cover story agreed that biomed device integration is essential, different organizations are taking rather diverse paths to that goal. Perhaps a bit surprisingly, I didn't hear a majority say they were moving quickly to put the biomedical engineering department under IT. Readers should check out the cover story to learn what some of the most advanced organizations in this area are doing. I was particularly fascinated by the multidisciplinary and highly strategic approach being taken at Trinity Health, the Novi, Michigan-based multi-state, multi-hospital system. Their highly strategic, highly collaborative approach to device integration earned them a place on our cover for September.

Dear HCI readers - stay tuned for our Septemeber cover story on the integration of biomedical devices and clinical IT I'll ask writer Mark Hagland to provide a teaser here for what he found while doing the piece.