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How HCI Works to Connect Global Healthcare Facility Experts, Resources

  by Walt Vernon | October 26, 2018
  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.

HCI 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:

  1. Developing extensive award programs available to all healthcare organizations, so that each of us has opportunities for international recognition for our work.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 Celsius.

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). Kaiser, the University of California and 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 the conversation.

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.