Clinician Engineers – The future of healthcare

On Sep 22nd, 2021, Dr. Neel Sharma, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, UK, gave a talk entitled "Clinician Engineers - The future of healthcare" as part of the SN Applied Sciences (springer.com/snas) webinar series.

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In this blog, Dr. Sharma highlights the importance of building such a cohort of professionals in the future healthcare landscape.

Engineering solutions are the basis of diagnosis and management. Take the case of a young newly diagnosed colitis patient. While we ensure to take a thorough history and physical exam, our minds are also processing how quickly we can get a CT (computerised tomography) scan and endoscopy. As clinicians what would you feel comfortable with as diagnostic measures, a physical exam alone? Unlikely.

Engineering is guiding the way. And this is not just true for digestive diseases, across all specialties; engineering platforms are now the gold standard. Our acute kidney injury patients being filtered, our hypoxic pneumonia patients being ventilated, our cardiac patients being stented; the list is limitless. Of course, there is always a divide and debate mentality in medicine. Many seniors may shudder at the thought of rapid technology diffusion into medical practice. Yet they probably would admit to the fact they would be glad of its availability if they became unwell. And as healthcare providers, we know for sure, the public are always keen for engineering-based solutions. Yet something is amiss.

Robust measures need to be in place to ensure that clinicians and technologies understand each other – the dawn of the clinician engineer. Recent key technologies that are expected to be transformative include for instance optics, wearable sensors and artificial intelligence to name but a few. Full integration of such technologies requires clinicians with broad engineering expertise. The ability to understand the fundamentals of how medical technologies work could enable specialists to evaluate the efficacy of medical devices and provide essential feedback. Specialists with technical knowledge can be gatekeepers for medical devices that may seem to be technologically innovative but provide no significant outcomes in clinical settings. Understanding differences in technology platforms can also allow for the identification of device failures. The ability to understand medical device technologies can also create an ecosystem for clinician engineers as entrepreneurs. With the emergence of the Clinician Engineer the critical thinking and appreciation of engineering principles in medical practice can move forward.

The recording of the SN Applied Sciences webinar is available at https://youtu.be/ODG5UAtuUzE. The SN Applied Sciences Topical Collection The Clinician Engineer, guest edited by Dr. Neel Sharma, is open for submissions through https://link.springer.com/collections/beddgejace.

Thomas von Larcher

Managing Editor, Springer Nature

Managing Editor Engineering of SN Applied Sciences at Springer Nature