Behind EXCEL: AAMIBlog: It’s Past Time for HTM to Turn Data into Knowledge

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In this series, we talk with the people who created some of this year’s most exciting EXCEL Award-winning work to find the story behind the project. For more stories behind this year’s EXCEL Awards, check out the August-September issue of Signature magazine.


Go here for a full list of this year’s EXCEL winners.


AAMI won two EXCEL awards this year, including a bronze for Digital Media Blog Post for AAMIBlog: It’s Past Time for HTM to Turn Data into Knowledge. We asked Larry Fennigkoh, a professor of biomedical engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering and author of the post, to tell us a little bit more about this project.


Sidebar: What’s the story behind this entry?


Fennigkoh: Essentially, the story is about the clinical engineering-healthcare technology management (HTM) profession’s lack of knowledge of the effects of what it has been doing for close to 50 years on meaningful and measurable outcomes related to cost, patient safety, and value to healthcare. Although the profession has gotten good at recording what it does, we know very little about the value and benefit of what’s being recorded.


Sidebar: What makes this entry special?


Fennigkoh: I was trying to get the readers (who are mainly clinical engineers and HTM professionals) to think outside their conventional data recording boxes and give some thought to understanding what knowledge may be buried within their data.


Sidebar: What notable hurdles did you overcome to create this?


Fennigkoh: The consistent reluctance and inability of hospital-based programs to share their data for exploratory data analysis studies was an issue. It was as if there were some perceived confidentiality that would be violated if such medical device maintenance data was shared.


Sidebar: What was your greatest achievement during the process?


Fennigkoh: Two large hospital systems did eventually contribute some large datasets that were able to be analyzed. A paper describing the mechanics and results of that analysis was recently published in AAMI’s peer-reviewed journal supplement, Horizons.


Sidebar: What lessons did you learn from this project?


Fennigkoh: Somewhat unfortunately, I don’t think the profession has enough members with the scientific background to fully appreciate the value and need to do such forms of inquiry. In their defense, though, many programs have become increasingly taxed with doing their day-to-day jobs — most of it involving intense firefighting — so they may simply not have the time to devote to academic pursuits, such as trying to find new knowledge.