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Healthcare Engineers: A Wide-Open Field
When most hear the term “engineer,” healthcare is not the first field that comes to mind. Those claiming the title “engineer” are traditionally employed in a multitude of disciplines, such as chemical, civil, mechanical, industrial or environmental. But there is a much broader niche employing engineers of all disciplines. The need for healthcare engineers will be on the rise in the coming decade.
What Is Healthcare Engineering?
According to the Journal of Healthcare Engineering, this discipline includes just about any engineering field that encompasses any aspect of the healthcare industry. Biomedical engineering, for example, deals with the devices and equipment, procedures and software that directly impacts physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and patients. Also included under the umbrella of healthcare engineering are fields such as healthcare information technology, distance or telemetry healthcare, and those responsible for healthcare facilities and infrastructure.
Healthcare engineers may focus on managing the environment where healthcare delivery takes place, improving the quality of healthcare or safety in healthcare settings. These engineers also put their minds to work to improve elderly care, epidemiology, public health, healthcare policies and social issues.
In short, healthcare engineers practice their engineering skills in all aspects of the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of injury and illness.
A Wide-Open Field
The American Society for Healthcare Engineering boasts a membership of over 12,000 engineers and other professionals nationwide. Healthcare tops the list of the world’s fastest growing industry in 2018 and projections through the next decade show the increased demand will continue. An increasing part of that demand is for biomedical engineers, mechanical engineers, systems engineers, software engineers and manufacturing engineers.
These are some of the fields coming under the purview of healthcare engineering. These are the engineers who create solutions that diagnose, treat, prevent and manage illnesses and injuries. They usually work behind the scenes with research and development teams, information technology departments and data science teams to create life-transforming medical solution breakthroughs.
The goal of healthcare engineering is to foster collaborations between physicians and engineers. It is through such cooperative ventures that new technologies such as cyber-physical systems become reality. By incorporating engineering with medical training and practice, the medical practitioners of the future are helping improve the quality of life for their patients today.
The healthcare field is rapidly expanding its use of technology in patient care. This fosters the growing need for engineering professionals in the clinical environment. Many of the nation’s over 6,000 hospitals are looking to recruit experienced and recently graduated mechanical, electrical, software, civil and systems engineers to integrate into their healthcare teams. Companies specializing in the manufacture of medical equipment are also actively seeking potential employees with this background.
Gone Are the Days
Gone are the days of the solitary physician making house calls on the sick at home and making rounds on those hospitalized. Healthcare in the 21st century goes beyond just the practice of medicine. It includes multiple processes and systems. It demands constant improvement and streamlining of processes to increase efficiency and ensure patient safety.
Medicine in the 21st century is looking more and more to other disciplines with which it can collaborate to gain the desired outcome. By applying principles of engineering disciplines to the challenges faced by hospitals and free-standing care sites, healthcare quality improves while delivery of care in a safe, efficient manner increases.
This makes for a win-win scenario for all.