Impact of 'Systems' Thinking on Healthcare Technology

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are starting to embrace and adopt systems engineering principles in their use of healthcare technology, a development examined in detail in the latest issue of the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI)s peer-reviewed journal, BI&T (Biomedical Instrumentation & Technology).

The move toward a systems engineering mindset promises to enhance the efficiency of healthcare delivery and bolster patient safety, according to several experts who say healthcare is learning what other industries have known for a long time.

The motivation that I have for bringing more systems theory to the healthcare environment is that I see the people constantly reinventing the wheel, says Pat Baird, an engineering director with Baxter Healthcare Corporation. Many of the challenges in healthcare are the same challenges other industries have faced decades ago. Healthcare needs to catch up, and I think that systems thinking could help speed the process.

Baird is just one of many experts quoted in the cover story of the March/April issue of BI&T. The article describes how many other industriesnuclear power, aviation, petrochemical, and defensehave made the move to systems thinking. Companies work together in these industries, allowing for greater standardization, risk management, and shared learningall desirable goals for the healthcare industry.

Its not just healthcare facilities that can benefit from the move to systems thinking. Manufacturers of medical devices and health information technology equipment also could reap the rewards. Manufacturers should think about how their device can improve the health of the patient and work with other companies developing other supporting medical devices to develop and define integration points, says Kathleen Whanger, a quality assurance manager with the vascular division at Teleflex Arrow International.

Furthermore, systems thinking will prove invaluable in managing the life cycle of equipment from making the initial purchase, all the way through systems upgrades and repair, according to the article.

BI&T has a readership of nearly 13,000 and is a benefit of AAMI membership. The award-winning journal is dedicated to the developers, managers, and users of medical devices and technology. For more information about BI&T, visit: www.aami.org/publications/BIT/.

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