— Written by Dr R L Raina
With the Indian government keen on promoting India as a medical tourist destination for patients seeking affordable treatment, there is going to be a demand for healthcare professionals. To meet this demand, a new course on healthcare engineering has emerged for students. It is a multi-disciplinary specialty that focuses on advancing this sector through engineering approaches involving both healthcare and engineering professionals.
In this course, candidates will not only need to know their subject, but also possess entrepreneurial skills, along with business and technology acumen. Researchers work with clinicians, collaborators and patients to identify and solve problems that are relevant today. They use scientific, engineering methodology to create solutions to complex health care problems and improve quality of life.
As a healthcare engineer, one needs to have the knowledge of engineering principles that will enable him/her to come up with solutions for healthcare. At times, it is also concerned with the development and design of a medical product. Some of the major skills that an aspirant requires:
— Analytical skills
— Good eye for design
— Vast knowledge about various diseases
— Attention to detailing
To pursue a Bachelor’s degree in healthcare engineering, a candidate must have cleared class 12 exams, with science subjects like biology, mathematics, physics, and chemistry. The course curriculum will be around the application of engineering tools in the healthcare industry and developing new cutting edge equipment to protect people from illness and injury, and property from damage.
Engineers are always in demand in healthcare. It is a misconception that only people who have studied biomedical and clinical engineering can become healthcare engineers. Even students pursuing chemical, civil, computer, electrical, environmental, industrial, information, materials, mechanical, software and systems engineering can pursue this field.
Biomechanics: It is the study of the structure, function and motion of the mechanical aspects of biological systems by using the methods of mechanics.
Medical devices: Under this, a student should have knowledge about devices that benefit patients by helping healthcare providers diagnose and treat patients and helping them overcome sickness or disease, improving their quality of life.
Genetic engineering: It is the knowledge of a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved or novel organisms.
Health Informatics: This is the study of a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved or novel organisms.
Emergency Management: According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), emergency is a state in which normal procedures are interrupted, and immediate measures need to be taken to prevent that state from turning into a disaster. Thus, emergency management is crucial to avoid the disruption transforming into a disaster, which is even harder to recover from.
If you are interested in public health challenges, this is the perfect time to pursue a career in healthcare engineering. It is in high demand as they have a crucial role to play in terms of designing and validating models in the context of public health, predictive modelling, epidemiological studies, machine learning and data visualisation. These skills are already some of the most sought after across a wide variety of sectors, and healthcare has also caught up during the current crisis.
Healthcare engineering covers the following two major fields:
Engineering for Healthcare Intervention: This comes into play when there are chances of any treatment, preventive care, or test that a person could take or undergo to improve health or to help with a particular health problem.
Engineering for Healthcare Systems: Engineering involved in the complete network of organisations, agencies, facilities, information systems, management systems, financing mechanisms, logistics, and all trained personnel engaged in delivering healthcare within a geographical area.
Universities offering this course
Since it is a relatively new course in India, none of the Indian universities offer this course yet, but some international universities do, such as Texas Tech University, Cambridge University, and John Hopkins University.
— The author is vice-chancellor, JK Lakshmipat University