Healthcare is increasingly an international
undertaking, with more and more designers and providers
operating outside the United States. The Health Care Institute
is committed to helping our members be part of this evolution.
For this reason, we not only represent the United States to the
International Federation of Healthcare Engineering (IFHE), but
also are actively working to build that organization’s value to
the HCI membership and to our colleagues in similar
organizations around the world.
In early October, HCI President Jeff Kent and
I represented HCI (and the United States) at the
2018 IFHE Congress in Brisbane, Australia.
This congress marked the start of a new direction for
IFHE—indicative of the quickly evolving healthcare
environment—as they changed their name from Hospital Engineering
to Healthcare Engineering. (For the record, I urged them to
change the name from “Engineering” to “Infrastructure”, in
recognition of HCI’s and IFHE’s broad membership. Apparently, to
the rest of the world, “engineering” includes all design and
facility management professions—apologies to our architect and
other professional members!)
The IFHE is a Congress of national
organizations, representing more than half of the countries of
the world. Its purpose is to support the members of the member
organizations in becoming the best professionals we can be. At
HCI, we see IFHE as a way to build bridges to our colleagues
around the world, so that we can share learning and resources.
In the past, IFHE has had a relatively limited
impact on HCI members. It currently offers three major
resources: a library of electronic articles; a yearly journal,
(which we distribute free to all HCI members); and a biannual
Congress, to which they invite the best thinkers from around the
world to collect and engage in peer-to-peer learning.
Board Member Walt Vernon, far left, is pictured with
the IFHE Executive Council, representing worldwide
expertise in healthcare facility engineering.
With HCI’s encouragement, IFHE’s leadership
has focused strongly in the last few years on building member
value. The organization is seeking to use the power of tens of
thousands of healthcare infrastructure professionals from around
the world to make us all better and, ultimately, to make the
world a better place. Toward this end, the IFHE will be
focusing, in 2019, on the following areas:
Developing extensive award programs available to all
healthcare organizations, so that each of us has
opportunities for international recognition for our work.
Developing online peer-to-peer communications, similar to a
list serve, to create a global community of resources, so
that we have a greatly expanded community of resources.
Developing an expertise bank, where we can identify people
with particular expertise, so that when someone needs help
they know where to reach out.
Pushing for a carbon neutral commitment
Among the critical conversations during the
Congress was the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change’s (IPCC)
report on global warming of 1.5 degrees
As you probably know, in 2015 the World
Healthcare Organization (WHO) Director General declared climate
change to be the defining health issue of this century. The IPCC
report underscores this, saying that if we do not bend the curve
now, not just our children, but all of us will experience very
costly impacts. As the people who are creating and operating the
energy systems of the world’s healthcare system, and consistent
with the healer’s foundational principal to first do no harm, we
debated the right response from the IFHE.
During the IFHE Congress, HCI strongly pushed
the IFHE for a commitment to encourage healthcare buildings to
achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 (for new buildings) and 2050
(for all buildings).
University of California
Gunderson here in the United
States are leading the way and showing the world that it can be
done. In the end, the IFHE did not come to closure on this
issue—yet. But the HCI is leading an effort to build support for
such a goal, and it is likely to come to fruition in 2019.
Bringing future discussions to the States
I am fortunate to not only represent the HCI,
but also to serve on the IFHE Executive Committee. In that role,
I have been a vocal advocate for ensuring the organization uses
its resources to help us here in the United States and to give
us the chance to help others.
With this goal in mind, Jeff and I presented a
proposal to bring the IFHE International Congress to the United
States in 2022. Our presentation was well received and many of
the IFHE members indicated the HCI presented a strong proposal
for the Congress. However—and this is NOT a political
statement—many of our international colleagues said they felt
scared of the U.S. now. Many encountered difficulty traveling to
this year’s event due to the U.S. restrictions that prevented
them from even flying through a U.S. airport to get to
Australia. While we are excited to visit Canada in 2022, it was
a disappointing loss for HCI and an urgent sign for
re-dedicating ourselves to the bridge-building that healthcare,
the IFHE, and HCI stands for.
HCI Board Member Walt Vernon
(left), and HCI President Jeff Kent (right) are
working to bring more international insight here to
the United States through future events.
While we are excited to join our colleagues in
Toronto for the 2022 event, we will also continue to work to
bring international discussions on healthcare here to the U.S.
to ensure HCI members are an active participant (and driver) in
How to get involved
I’m honored to represent HCI to this august
body. It is a heavy responsibility, but one that matters. We are
determined to use this opportunity to build the value of all
healthcare engineering professionals around the world and to
provide value and opportunity especially to HCI members.
We are very interested in getting our members
involved in these efforts, and in identifying other ways for the
IFHE to provide value to us. Please
get in touch with us, if you
have ideas. Let us know what you think, what your interests are
and how we can do more.
Thank you for being part of HCI and, through
us, the international community.
Walt Vernon is CEO of Mazzetti and a member
of the Health Care Institute Board of Directors.