Right now, it’s a hit and miss thing whether hospital medical devices can talk to each other or connect with the facility’s EMR. A lack of standards — and money for next-gen devices — has made such interoperability a very tough job. But getting the job done is worth the trouble, a new story in iHealthBeat suggests.
At present, patients in hospitals are treated with six to 12 medical devices in a typical intensive care unit, including defibrillators, electrocardiographs, vital sign monitors, ventilators and infusion pumps, typically from a mix of manufacturers, notes West Health Institute. Because these devices aren’t inherently interoperable, hospitals spend big on IT infrastructure to connect them.
There’s plenty of reason to make them connect, however. A study by West Health has concluded that if the industry could improve medical device interoperability and adhere to interoperability standards, it could shave $30 billion off of U.S. healthcare costs. According to the report, the U.S. spends $36 billion each year on “addressable waste” resulting from a lack of medical device interoperability. Savings the U.S. could realize breaks down as follows, iHealthBeat reports:
- $17.8 billion from higher treatment capacity that would result from shorter hospital stays
- $12.3 billion from increased clinician productivity
- $3 billion from reducing the cost of providing care
- $2 billion from reducing adverse events
- $1.2 billion from wider adoption of interoperability standards
But getting to the point where interoperability is common could take a long time, according to West Health’s Joseph Smith, who recently testified on the Hill on this subject. Right now, only one-third of hospitals using six or more medical devices that can be integrated with EMRs have actually done the integration work, Smith told a House subcommittee.
What’s more, vendors will need to invest in R&D to turn out next-gen interoperable devices, a cost that will be at least partly absorbed rather than passed on to the buyer, Smith noted.