The provision of equitable, quality and efficient healthcare requires an extraordinary array of properly balanced and managed resource inputs. Physical resources such as fixed assets and consumables, often described as healthcare technology, are among the principal types of those inputs. Technology is the platform on which the delivery of healthcare rests, and the basis for provision of all health interventions. Technology generation, acquisition and utilization require massive investment, and related decisions must be made carefully to ensure the best match between the supply of technology and health system needs, the appropriate balance between capital and recurrent costs, and the capacity to manage technology throughout its life.
Healthcare technology has become an increasingly visible policy issue, and healthcare technology management (HTM) strategies have repeatedly come under the spotlight in recent years. While the need for improved HTM practice has long been recognized and addressed at numerous international forums, health facilities in many countries are still burdened with many problems, including non-functioning medical equipment as a result of factors such as inadequate planning, inappropriate procurement, poorly organized and managed healthcare technical services, and a shortage of skilled personnel. The situation is similar for other health system physical assets such as buildings, plant and machinery, furniture and fixtures, communication and information systems, catering and laundry equipment, waste disposal, and vehicles.
The (mis-)management of physical assets impacts on the quality, efficiency and sustainability of health services at all levels, be it in a tertiary hospital setting with sophisticated life-support equipment, or at the primary healthcare level where simple equipment is needed for effective diagnosis and safe treatment of patients. What is vital – at all levels and at all times – is a critical mass of affordable, appropriate, and properly functioning equipment used and applied correctly by competent personnel, with minimal risk to their patients and to themselves. Clear policy, technical guidance, and practical tools are needed for effective and efficient management of healthcare technology for it to impact on priority health problems and the health system’s capacity to adequately respond to health needs and expectations.
This Series of Guides aims to promote better management of healthcare technology and to provide practical advice on all aspects of its acquisition and utilization, as well as on the organization and financing of healthcare technical services that can deliver effective HTM.
The Guides – individually and collectively – have been written in a way that makes them generally applicable, at all levels of health service delivery, for all types of healthcare provider organizations and encompassing the roles of health workers and all relevant support personnel.
It is hoped that these Guides will be widely used in collaboration with all appropriate stakeholders and as part of broader HTM capacity-building initiatives being developed, promoted and implemented by WHO and its partners, and will therefore contribute to the growing body of evidence-based HTM best practice.
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