Biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) are important to today’s medical equipment uptime. They are the men and women who are relied on to keep all sorts of expensive, highly specialized, highly sensitive complex equipment maintained, properly configured and safely functional.
But the medical equipment and devices industry is in a flux with technological, political, and economic forces exerting pressure on every aspect of its existence. Will these forces prove too powerful? Will the biomedical equipment technician survive or become extinct in a world of mobile medical apps, self-diagnostic equipment monitoring and connected networking?
The Mobile Medical App explosion
The rise in mobile medical application development has experienced meteoric growth. According to the medical markets research firm Kalorama Information, “T [t]he market for healthcare-related software apps for use in mobile devices has grown and will continue to grow quickly.”
How quickly? They report that the market for mobile medical apps was worth about $150 million following a 100 percent annual growth rate between 2009 and 2010, and an almost 80 percent growth between 2020 and 2011. They go on to say that the expected 25 percent annual growth from 2012 to 2106. Although slower from the initial surge, it is still considered solid growth, competing with other large and popular app categories such as gaming, entertainment, social networking, and navigation.
Doctors prescribe iPads for digital connectivity
The influx of portable technology in hospitals has hit a tipping point. MobiHealthNews reports that in a 2012 ON24 and MedData Group survey, 45 percent of doctors reported that they now have and use iPads at work. Another 29% said they planned on purchasing an iPad within the next 6 months. Physicians use their mobile devices to check drug prescribing and safety information, review medical research findings, and share medical images with colleagues.
Personal and pocketsize medical devices
While physicians are using Medical Apps designed for them specifically, patients too are using apps on their mobile devices to better manage their own individual health care. Personal medical apps are helping patients improve healthcare recordkeeping, better track their health indicators and be more informed on health and lifestyle options and choices.
The increasing comfort level of physicians and patients with mobile devices and health related apps has led to their increased use. Activities formerly associated with an office visit check-up are being replaced with at home monitoring and a more collaborative relationship between doctor and patient. Patients are using their mobile devices as pocket size medical devices – medical devices that never need a BMET to keep them serviced and working.
The good news for BMETs
Despite the personalization and shrinking size of medical devices, there is good news for BMETs. Technology in healthcare is adding new devices every day that have not yet found their way to an iPad or iPhone screen.
Additionally, access to healthcare and medical devices is more globally obtainable now than ever before, allowing more countries world-wide to take advantage of the diagnostic tools previously unavailable to them. Market researcher Lucintel reports that “T[t]he global medical device industry has experienced significant growth over the last five years and is expected to continue, reaching approximately US $302 billion in 2017 with a CAGR of 6.1%during next six years (2011-2017).
Employment estimates support the optimistic future of the BMET. United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that “[e]mployment of medical equipment repairers is expected to grow 31 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.”
The bad news for BMETs
The bad news is that the life of a BMET, as he/she knows it, is unlikely to stay the same. The medical device industry is undergoing rapid change with frequent mergers and acquisitions that are wholly reshaping the landscape. Changing and tightening regulatory controls as well as financial pressures associated with the Medical Device Tax are exerting influential forces leading to increased competition.
Fierce competition will incent corporations to look for innovative tactics that make marked, leap-frog advancements rather than incremental gains against their competitors. The service sector offers just such opportunity. Just as product lifecycle management (PLM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) helped launch manufacturers ahead of competition in the past, service lifecycle management (SLM) presents a similar potential for paradigm shifting change today.
BMETs and their namesake equivalent Biomedical Equipment/Engineering Specialist (BES or BMES) are employed by three main medical equipment service providers:
• Original equipment manufacturers
• Clinical Engineering (typically in-house hospital departments)
• Third-party service providers
As these three entities volley for position and service revenue, BMETs may find it beneficial to realign themselves with the most forward thinking party that is redefining the service experience. BMETs not focused on the end service game may be left behind.