Biomedicine helps healing
During the 20 years since Denny Ho began his career in the biomedical engineering field with a medical supply firm, the specialist engineering sector has expanded dramatically.
"When I joined the industry, there were only three main medical supply companies in Hong Kong which also provided after-sales services," says Ho, who is biomedical engineering manager at the Matilda International Hospital.
Because of a lack of biomedical engineers, medical supply companies recruited technicians and engineers to provide maintenance support, Ho recalls. Today, there are more than 200 medical suppliers in Hong Kong who employ biomedical engineers, which has become a specialised engineering sector.
As the Matilda biomedical engineering manager, Ho is responsible for compiling, reviewing and supervising medical equipment maintenance programmes.
This includes implementing regular equipment preventive maintenance schedules, and maintaining suitable records for the safe use of biomedical equipment. He also works with doctors, medical professionals and suppliers to source and procure medical equipment. Additionally, he is involved with the upgrading of facilities to ensure they meet licensing and safety requirements.
Ho says working in a leading hospital allows him constant exposure to state-of-the-art medical equipment and advances in medical practices. For instance, he was involved in setting up Hong Kong's first specialised Hana operating table (for lower limb surgeries), and a Jackson Table that can be rotated 180 degree for patients who require neck or lower back spinal surgery. He also works with instruments for the latest total ankle and shoulder replacement procedures.
"Compared with working for a medical supply company, the hospital environment has widened my scope of work and my exposure," says Ho. "Since the hospital provides comprehensive services, I come into contact with equipment and procedures ranging from family medicine and women's health, to health assessment and surgery," he says.
Ho also makes the point that knowledge and technical skills are not all the bioengineer needs. He says biomedical engineers have to understand the users' - that is, healthcare workers' - perspective. "Effective communication is often the key to minimise downtime of medical equipment," says Ho.
For example, medical practitioners need to be trained to adopt good equipment practices. Communication is also important to implement preventive equipment maintenance schedules.
Biomedical engineers also need to maintain professional growth through continuous education and be familiar with medical processes and procedure developments.