HEALTHCARE ENGINEERING DEFINED
(See Healthcare Engineering Defined: a White Paper, Chyu, et al., 2015.)
Healthcare Engineering is engineering involved in all aspects of healthcare.
The term “engineering” covers all engineering disciplines such as Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Computer, Electrical, Environmental, Industrial, Information, Materials, Mechanical, Software, and Systems Engineering.
Based on "Healthcare" defined below:
"the maintenance and improvement of physical and mental health, especially through the provision of medical services" (Oxford Dictionaries), or
"the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through the services offered by the medical and allied health professions." (The American Heritage Dictionary),
a more detailed definition of Healthcare Engineering is the following:
Healthcare Engineering is engineering involved in all aspects of the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management of illness, as well as the preservation and improvement of physical and mental health and well-being, through the services offered to humans by the medical and allied health professions.
The purpose of Healthcare Engineering is to improve human health and well-being through engineering approaches.
Healthcare Engineering covers the following two major areas:
(I) Engineering for Healthcare Intervention
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (USDHHS) defines "healthcare intervention" as:
"Any type of treatment, preventive care, or test that a person could take or undergo to improve health or to help with a particular problem."
USDHHS further specifies that Healthcare interventions include drugs, foods, supplements, vaccinations, screening tests, exercises, hospital treatment, and certain kinds of care (such as physical therapy). See topics of Engineering for Healthcare Intervention.
(II) Engineering for Healthcare Systems
"Healthcare system" is defined as:
"the complete network of agencies, facilities, and all providers of health care in a specified geographic area" (Mosby's Medical Dictionary), or
"complex of facilities, organizations, and trained personnel engaged in providing health care within a geographical area." (BusinessDictionary.com)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a good health system requires “a robust financing mechanism; a well-trained and adequately paid workforce; reliable information on which to base decisions and policies; well maintained facilities and logistics to deliver quality medicines and technologies.” See topics of Engineering for Healthcare Systems.
Therefore, the scope of Healthcare Engineering can be stated as the following:
Healthcare Engineering covers the following two major fields:
I. Engineering for Healthcare Intervention: Engineering involved in the development or provision 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.
II. Engineering for Healthcare Systems: Engineering involved in the complete network of organizations, agencies, facilities, information systems, management systems, financing mechanisms, logistics, and all trained personnel engaged in delivering healthcare within a geographical area.
Synergy of Engineering and Health Sciences
Engineering has been playing a crucial role in serving healthcare, bringing about revolutionary advances in healthcare. Contributions have been made by engineers from almost all engineering disciplines, such as Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Computer, Electrical, Environmental, Industrial, Information, Materials, Mechanical, Software, and Systems Engineering, as well as healthcare professionals such as physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, allied health professionals, and health scientists who are engaged in supporting, improving, and/or advancing any aspect of healthcare through engineering approaches. "Healthcare Engineering" is the most appropriate term to encompass such a multi-disciplinary specialty, considering that advancing healthcare is the common goal for all such efforts made through engineering approaches.
Healthcare Engineering features a synergy among the healthcare/medical sectors of all engineering disciplines and the engineering/technology sectors of the Health Sciences, as depicted in the figure above. Also see Alliance.
Healthcare Engineering vs. Biomedical Engineering
Biomedical Engineering (the medical sector of Bioengineering) plays a key role and has made tremendous contributions to healthcare. In general, Healthcare Engineering is a broader discipline than Biomedical Engineering.
Healthcare Engineering covers healthcare, while Biomedical Engineering focuses on biomedicine. Biomedicine is part of healthcare; biomedical industry is part of healthcare industry; and therefore, Biomedical Engineering is part of Healthcare Engineering.
Healthcare is covered in almost all engineering disciplines such as chemical, computer, electrical, industrial, information, materials, mechanical, software, and systems engineering, in addition to Biomedical Engineering.
Healthcare Engineering is therefore broader than Biomedical Engineering by covering
healthcare, including biomedicine;
all engineering disciplines, including Biomedical Engineering.