A friend passed along this link to a job opening today. The reason I'm bringing it up is because I think it represents a job of increasing importance in health care - in both provider organizations and vendors.

The position requires, "a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical or Clinical Engineering or related field and a minimum of 5 years of experience in clinical engineering and information systems. Master’s degree is preferred." Here's the description (emphasis is mine):

Successful applicants will possess previous project management and planning experience, strong communication and team building skills across functional areas. Following certifications are preferred: Certified Clinical Engineering (CCE); Certified Information Systems Security professional (CISSP) by (ISC)2; Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) or Network Professional (CCNP); Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) or Engineer (MCSE).

Job Duties:

  • Maintains current inventory of networked and integrated medical systems (including catalog of services, features, interconnections).
  • Coordinates security management process including risk and vulnerability analysis and related documentation associated with interconnected/integrated medical systems.
  • Coordinates with stakeholders a process to prioritize, develop and implement plan to manage mitigate identifies risks associated with interconnected/integrated medical systems by applying appropriate administrative, physical & technical safeguards.
  • Maintains the integrity of FDA approval for interconnected/integrated medical systems.
  • Works with stakeholders to insure effective deployment, integration, and support of new medical systems into legacy systems and non-medical elements of the organizations information structure.
  • Identifies and manages appropriate software upgrades, security patches and anti-virus installs for interconnected/integrated medical systems according to industry best practices.
  • Conducts Root Cause Analysis and Failure Mode Effects Analysis on incidents involving integrated medical systems and reports finings to appropriate stakeholders for follow up action.
  • Monitors and adopts industry “Best Practices” to insure integrity, availability and confidentiality of data maintained and transmitted across interconnected and integrated medical systems.
  • Educates stakeholders on security and other implications associated with the proliferation of interconnected and integrated medical technologies.

Wow. This is the first hospital job description that I've seen for a hard core connectologist. Note that the position is in the Clinical Engineering department, not IT. From experience, I can tell you that the third and fourth bullets above will be the most difficult of the duties listed. The only thing missing from the above requirements is any RF experience; they must have someone else who already covers wireless "networked and integrated medical systems."

Someone with this skill set could easily work as a medical device or HIT product manager on the vendor side. If you're interested in the position, I know the guy you'd be working for - he's a nice guy. And between you and me, the position is easily worth $100,000+.

People with this kind of experience are few and far between - on both the hospital and vendor side - but I predict that more and more of these positions will be opening up in the future. If you're looking for a connectologist, give me a call, I know quite a few.

Pictured right is a networked and integrated medical system at the hiring institution, a robotic operating room at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

UPDATE: Fellow connectologist Dave Hoglund makes the following observations:

Tim, agree with you. However, what they are asking for (oh yes don't forget RF), has a going rate of $150,000 a year, minimum. They would be better to outsource, as I do not think Clinical Engineering departments are financed to support this type of payroll. All the more reason to "inquire", what is their business plan and requirements...hmm, strategic planning is perhaps what is needed.

Connectivity represents a mix of skills and experience that are in short supply (connectologists are brilliant and good looking too). Connectivity also pulls across traditional markets and employee categories. A vendor example would be the difference between a traditional medical device field service rep and one who can also do network integration. The person with network engineering skills throws the medical device service department's pay ranges completely out of wack - just like the job above will do to hospital biomed departments.

Outsourcing some of this work could lower both the requirements for the position and the resulting pay required to, you know, actually get it filled. An alternative would be to push some of this onto vendors. Hospitals who don't want to find themselves in the position of systems integrators of "networked and integrated medical systems" should negotiate those responsibilities up front - I know of one very large provider that's doing this, and more are following suit.

Strategic planning can also help. Like most problems after the sale, many connectivity related issues are best resolved before the purchase order is cut. For this to really work though, you need to know what you're doing - and with hospitals just getting into connectivity in a serious way (not to mention RFID, and anything that impacts the point of care) you hire the experience at a premium or rent it as needed.

Here's one final thought. The transition from standalone embedded system medical devices to connected and interoperable medical device systems is just that, a transition. This transition necessitates modest but basic changes across provider and vendor organizations. In my experience, once the connectivity transition is complete, the same organization picks up and carries on without the need for specialized connectologists - the appropriate connectivity knowledge gets absorbed into the organization. The best connectologists can both do a job like the one above (or product manager on the vendor side) and help guide the organization's changes in other areas as well. Facilitating this transition, including business planning, product strategy, sales/marketing, and human resources issues, is a top candidate for outsourcing.