It may sound contrasting though engineers are always high on demand in the healthcare sector. With the rising public health concerns across the globe, healthcare engineering is becoming a sought after career more than ever.
The COVID 2019 pandemic not only shooked governments around the world, it did expose the loopholes in the healthcare sector in many nations including some of the developed nations.
Besides, some of the deadly diseases like Ebola, Swine flu, and Bird flu including the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have made governments around the world are going to increase budgets for public health and hygiene. This means there will be greater demand for trained professionals in medical, paramedical and engineering services.
As per the World Health Statistics 2020 by World Health Organisation(WHO), the world will need millions of health professionals by 2030.
So the demand for healthcare engineers will be on the rise among core healthcare professionals like doctors and nurses.
So what is ‘healthcare engineering’ all about?
Healthcare engineering is a multi-disciplinary specialty programmer that helps in advancing the healthcare sector through engineering approaches involving both medical and engineering professionals. There are programmes on biomedical, bioinformatics, and clinical engineering.
However, healthcare engineers require a holistic approach.
A good healthcare engineer needs the right blend of an entrepreneurial mindset and technological acumen.
In healthcare engineering, one has to work with clinicians, collaborators and patients to identify and solve problems that are relevant to the contemporary world. They use scientific methodologies, engineering technologies to create solutions to complex healthcare problems to improve overall health and hygiene in the society.
Skills needed to be a healthcare engineer
Broadly speaking, a healthcare engineer is one who implements engineering principles to solve complex problems in the healthcare sector. This may include developing effective medical devices and health equipment.
Here are the prerequisite qualities of a healthcare engineer
- A flair for the service of mankind
- Strong analytical ability
- Design-Think approach
- Good knowledge about various diseases
- Excellent communication skills
A person interested in making a career in this field should pursue a Bachelor’s degree in healthcare engineering. To do this, one should have cleared class 12 exams from the science stream with subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Biology.
The course curriculum involves various applications of engineering techniques that are applied in the healthcare industry. Besides, it includes the understanding of cutting edge medical devices and equipment.
Interestingly, healthcare engineering is not something that is restricted to a particular type of engineering only.
Engineering students across branches such as computer, electrical, chemical, mechanical, civil, environmental, industrial, information, materials, software and systems engineering can pursue a career in healthcare engineering.
Some Indian institutions offer Post Graduate programmes in Public Health Engineering for which B. Tech students from any branches can apply.
A healthcare engineer can have the following areas of specialisations –
Medical devices: Let’s take the example of COVID 2019. Many hospitals across various nations are struggling with the right kind of devices to test Coronavirus positive cases and ventilators. A hospital or government health agency well equipped with these kinds of devices and equipment has always an advantage.
So is the case for other patients and diseases.
Emergency Management: Be it a natural calamity, a fire accident in a public place or a pandemic situation, a hospital’s regular flow of working gets disrupted. Proper emergency management in place will help in reducing the effect of such disruption. Again, a hospital’s agility to handle emergencies occurring from within its parameter can be controlled through a robust emergency management system.
Biomechanics: It is the branch of study that includes an understanding of the structure, function, and mechanical aspects of biological systems by using the methods of mechanics.
Genetic engineering: This includes the study of a set of technologies used to manipulate the DNA or change the genetic arrangements of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved or new organisms.
Health Informatics: It’s known as bioinformatics and health informatics as well. It’s primarily the use of information technology to collect data and further help the healthcare industry with that information.
Career Prospects in Healthcare Engineering
There are a plethora of career opportunities waiting for you in the healthcare sector. The demand for a trained healthcare engineer is increasing day by day.
A healthcare engineer has an important role to play during this time. Be it in terms of designing and validating models in the context of public health, epidemiological studies, predictive modeling, machine learning and data visualisation, the demand for the right professionals is high.
Healthcare engineering covers the following two main areas:
Engineering for Healthcare Intervention: This comes into play when there are chances of preventive care, any treatment, or test that a person could take or undergo to improve health or to help with a particular public health problem.
Engineering for Healthcare Systems: Engineering involved in the complete network of organizations, agencies, information systems, management systems, facilities, financing mechanisms, logistics, and all trained personnel engaged in delivering healthcare within a geographical area.
Where to get trained?
There are some universities from around the world that offer both Undergraduate and postgraduate level programmes in different specialisations healthcare engineering. These include: Texas Tech University, Cambridge University, and John Hopkins University, Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore), All India Institute of Hygiene & Public Health (Kolkata), Preventive Medicine Institute of Public Health (Chennai)
Check the websites of these institutions to know more and apply.
A career in healthcare engineering is as lucrative as a career in IT or medical science. Depending upon one’s ability and performance a good healthcare engineer may reach a key position or a leadership role in a hospital or a medical equipment company. The salary can be skyrocketing then.