Forum Participants Tackle HTM Personnel Pipeline Shortage

Posted April 3, 2018

Future Forum IVWhat will it take to solve the frustrating problem of a lack of qualified applicants to fill open positions in healthcare technology management (HTM)? According to a group of experts who gathered at AAMI headquarters to dissect this challenge, the solution will only come through a comprehensive three-pronged approach: raising awareness about the field, offering more education programs, and establishing minimum standards for the profession.

That verdict was the upshot of last week’s Future Forum IV. The forum was the latest in a series of meetings hosted by AAMI to address the most challenging issues facing the HTM field.

The succinct summary of how to successfully tackle the HTM personnel shortage belies the complexity of how to execute that solution and bring about real change. To that end, a preliminary plan is expected to be completed by mid-April. This plan will serve as a roadmap for AAMI’s incoming vice president (VP) of HTM—an entirely new position—to achieve the association’s strategic objective to strengthen the HTM profession.

During the two-day meeting, a diverse group of 14 HTM professionals and educators worked with AAMI staff and two facilitators to reach a consensus on a set of realistic and actionable items to address the shortage of skilled applicants for open and soon-to-be-open HTM positions.

“I was extremely impressed with the intelligence, professionalism, and mix of the team. There were people from large health systems and standalone hospitals. There also were representatives from the military, manufacturing, and independent service organization sectors, as well as educators,” said Heidi Horn, vice president of HTM at SSM Health, which serves the greater St. Louis, MO area. “Everyone had unique perspectives, but the one commonality was that everyone felt very passionate about the HTM profession and wanted to come up with solutions to how we grow the number of qualified applicants entering the field.”

Over the next few years, it is estimated that about 5,000 biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) will be needed to meet the growing demand for professionally trained and experienced service professionals. At the same time, an estimated 33 degree-producing schools have closed their HTM-related programs in recent years (24 associate-level programs and nine bachelor-level), leaving only 22 accredited colleges that graduate approximately 400 BMET students each year.

“Not only are we seeing fewer and fewer schools offer biomedical and clinical engineering curricula and degrees, but those that do offer it aren’t filling all their openings—there’s just not enough awareness about the profession,” Horn said. “We’re going to need the help of everyone in the industry spread the word about what a rewarding profession HTM is and encourage young people and those who want to change careers to go into it.”

Barbara Maguire, vice president of quality and Geisinger clinical engineering for ISS Solutions, Inc., was encouraged by the plan that she and the other participants developed.

“I think the solutions we came up with will benefit the HTM field by developing more interest from students and renewed excitement from those in the field by reminding them why they love it and want to share their enthusiasm with others,” Maguire said.

AAMI President and CEO Robert Jensen said the association is determined to help resolve the HTM personnel pipeline shortage, and he pointed to the new HTM VP position as evidence of AAMI’s commitment.

“We have already put resources behind this effort and stood up a new VP position to facilitate HTM personnel pipeline development and to advance the professionalism of the field,” Jensen told forum participants. “You have our commitment to see this through.”

Horn and the other participants left the forum feeling optimistic about where the initiative is headed.

“If we can successfully fine tune and implement the plan with the help of everyone who has a stake in the outcome, I think we can achieve our end goal of significantly increasing qualified applicants entering the field,” she said.