Medical Technology Manager
"High tech is part of the scene of health care," asserts Elie Geisler, professor of management at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. And that scene doesn't relate strictly to the diagnostic realm either, adds Dr. Geisler. Today, state-of-the-art technology can be found not only within the diagnostic and therapeutic areas, but also within the offices of physicians, nurses, physician assistants...in short, almost anyone who is working in the healthcare profession.

Increasingly sophisticated technology has, of course, been touching all our lives in all different arenas throughout the past few years, says Dr. Geisler, and it is only to be expected that that technology would spill off into the field of healthcare. The result--everyone working in the profession needs to be part of this new scene.

But who is going to oversee the new technology? The evaluation of new equipment? The purchasing? The training? Etc. etc. According to Dr. Geisler, the newly emerging manager of medical technology will soon be the point person in healthcare settings across the country. "When you look at larger frameworks, such as hospitals," says Dr. Geisler, "things are getting out of hand. People are buying equipment, spending money, trying to learn how to use the new equipment, how to train their staff, how to build it into the overall system, how to keep on top of the innovations that are happening by the day. . .all this has to be dealt with.

"Who will see what we need? How we will allocate our funds so the purchase makes sense?" Up until two or three years ago, this was a diversified job, says Dr. Geisler, but with today's rapid advances, healthcare sites need more than that. . .they need a specific person or a specific job category to handle the ever-changing technology. That new position, says Dr. Geisler, is the emerging role of "chief medical technology officer," a responsibility that has traditionally been shared by three or four people at a time. This is a career field that will grow very fast, says Dr. Geisler, as all the previously diversified tasks will crystallize into one position.

"In about five years," says Dr. Geisler, "every hospital in the country will have a medical technology officer. There is no other way...there's too much money involved not to have someone managing the entire process." Although not yet the norm within the healthcare profession, technology officers can be found in other high-tech industries, reports Coleen Curran in "Searching for the CTO," published in the November 1997 issue of Healthcare Technology Management. "In its 1997 list of Hot Jobs," writes Ms. Curran, "executive recruiting firm Christian & Timbers of Cleveland, Ohio, listed CTO (chief technical officer) as its sixth hottest job title with a predicted growth rate of 96 percent."

Christian & Timbers describe the position of CTO as follows: "This person must understand the technology requirements for their companies today and five years down the road. At many technology companies, the CTO is the owner of the technical vision. At some start-up Internet companies, they have eliminated the title of Vice President of Engineering and replaced it with the CTO title. The CTO title is used in various ways. Some CTOs are senior staff positions in charge of the strategic technology vision. Others run the entire engineering and technology efforts and manage large organizations. The CTO must have business savvy and technological know-how."

Dr. Geisler observes that one of the reasons the high-tech industry is growing is that, in short, it's there. Another is the theory of Best Available Technology--"if the technology's out there and we don't use it, a patient can come back with an attorney and hold us liable. "We have to keep up with the technology," says Dr. Geisler. "We have no choice."

David Walker, chief technology officer at Valley Children's hospital in Fresno, California, agrees. In his "Introduction to Management of Medical Technology," located at his website home.earthlink.net/~firstbreath/TechnoStrategy.htm, Mr. Walker notes that, "Unlike manufacturing companies that produce particular goods, hospitals must offer and deliver the highest quality of care possible, to their customers, the patients, and families. Although manufacturers must produce high-quality products and/or services (to remain in business), the healthcare industry's failure to offer quality care can lead to life-threatening consequences.

"The healthcare industry is undergoing a rapid process of reengineering," Mr. Walker continues, "that will lead to an integration of clinical and management technologies. This will require a radical redesign of hospital systems to create seamless healthcare delivery processes and a leadership with a strong customer orientation."

Dr. Geisler predicts that medical technology officers will come from both sides of the fence--healthcare and business. In order to provide the best training for this new career opportunity, Dr. Geisler is working to form an academic program that will address the issues involved and will teach MDs, RNs, and PAs, as well as business people, about the field. "If they're not all on the same page," he explains, "they will at least be in the same book." Some of the responsibilities of a medical technology officer, writes David Walker, will be the:
  • Supervision of technology activities
  • Assurance of technology health
  • Acquisition of external technologies
  • Coordination of technology efforts
To prepare individuals to enter this new field, the Medical College of Wisconsin is currently offering an academic curriculum in medical technology management in partnership with the School of Business at Marquette University. "Physicians are beginning to find out that they need to know how things are run," says Dr. Geisler. "They, as well as other healthcare professionals, need to be more involved with the management of this new technology."

The figures tell the story...according to a study of U.S. hospitals conducted by Dr. Geisler, one-third of the cost of healthcare per year is absorbed by the cost of technology. "That's what really runs the place." According to David Walker, the role of technology cuts across a number of a hospital's operating systems, including medical evaluation (how medical professionals will diagnose and treat their patients), fiscal managerial decisions (the "bottom line"), and strategic development (the hospital's service profile, mission, composition of staff, etc.).

The field of medical technology, says Dr. Elie Geisler, is "exploding," and to spread the word, Dr. Geisler has co-authored a text with Ori Heller, M.D., entitled Management of Medical Technology: Theory, Practice and Cases (ISBN 0-7923-8054), published this year by Kluwer Academic Publishers and available in bookstores, through the publisher, or on Amazon.com. In addition, he is the founder and editor-in-chief of the forthcoming journal, titled Journal of Management of Medical Technology.

Financially, says Dr. Geisler, managers of medical technology will receive ample compensation, on a par with chief technical officers. But, he cautions, it will be a "tough" job. "What these managers do will have a lot of impact on how those in the healthcare profession do their job. They'll be, shall we say, actively interacting with everybody."



For more information on the field of medical technology management, email Dr. Geisler at [email protected], or check his website at http://www.geisler-mmt.com.

Written By: Carol Sorgen

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