Medical Engineering and IT

Cooperation between IT and medical engineering in hospitals - relevant aspects for diagnostic imaging departments

"The problem between information technology and medical engineering may stem from sequential processing and intermeshing", Peter Gocke, MD, said. Sounds difficult? But the real difficulty in the “Cooperation between IT and Medical Engineering (ME)” is something seemingly mundane: “At the end of the day collaboration is the target achievable”, Gocke, who is IT director at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hamburg, Germany, summarized the key issue.

Peter Gocke, CIO Department of Information Technology, University Clinic...
Peter Gocke, CIO Department of Information Technology, University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg/DE (credit: Schneider)

Modern hospital infrastructure heavily depends on information technology. For an efficient use of technology, IT should deeply integrate several complex systems and structures throughout the hospital that directly affect clinical workflows. “This, of course, needs a governing structure which often originates in IT departments,” Gocke said. The complex interaction between medical engineering and hospital IT goes far beyond simple RIS/PACS integration. It can also cover order entry, image and report distribution, and down to reimbursement issues. This turns some CIOs in quasi-CPOs - chief processing officers.”

“To understand the communication depths between information technology and medical engineering, you have to understand the different job socialisations. While ME is device centred, and often maintains manual works, IT focuses on networks and systems,” Gocke pointed out. “Moreover, the customers often have made their special experiences with these two approaches. For them, medical engineering consists of purchase, assembly and configuration while the IT part presents network connection, data integration and configuration. Lost between these two, the customer often feels like a punching ball.”

Gocke recommends the following to achieve proper interaction between IT and ME:
- agreement on standardized network infrastructure (via a central purchasing department)
- definition of responsibilities and interfaces
- coordinated maintenance procedures
- agreement on standard security policies
- focus on proper workflow processes

And the take-home message? “Last but not least”, Gocke said, “you have to communicate, communicate, communicate.”

After obtaining a medical degree and board certification in diagnostic radiology, Gocke became assistant medical director at the University Hospital, Essen, Germany. In 2003, following various successful courses in management and IT, he took up his present post as director of the information department (CIO) at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf.


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