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Medical device interoperability: 2015

Medical device interoperability is a stated 2015 objective. While Phase 3 criteria have not yet been detailed, the intent of this objective appears to be for all devices to be interoperable with EMRs and clinical infor- mation systems. The theory of all devices being interoperable

Stuart Long is president, North America, Capsule Tech. For more on Capsule Tech:

is a good one; however, the reality is that the chance of this actually being achieved across all device manufacturers is not realistic under these time frames. Here’s why: Only a small fraction of devices today can send interoperable HL7 data; this means that many of the devices already installed within the hospital are not interoperable. Therefore, hospitals may be required to purchase new devices to meet the objective. With already strained budgets and resources, many hospitals may not be able to do so. Let’s assume, however, that a hospital is willing and able to purchase HL7-compliant, interoperable devices. First, it is very likely that all the device types a hospital needs would not be available. The average development cycle of a biomedical device can be as long as four years, if not longer, and while manufacturers are adding in the HL7 requirement to new devices when they can, this is not something that can be incor- porated into all devices, and certainly not within the required time frame. Second, if a hospital was able to purchase the various HL7-compliant devices it needs, doing so would mean that each device would have its own interface that would have to be managed. This would result in a very complex architecture, with an inordinate amount of HL7 feeds that would be very diffi cult to manage and support and would not offer the fl exibility and scalability a hospital needs. Bottom line: Interoperability is important; as hospitals purchase new devices, it is good practice to purchase HL7- compliant ones. This will not, however, meet all interoper- ability requirements. The most cost-effective and realistic means to meet the interoperability objective now and in the future is by implementing a vendor-neutral connectiv- ity solution that would convert all data from all connected devices to HL7, so multiple receiving information systems can accept it. Such a solution would enable interoperability, allow a hospital to use the equipment it has in place and minimize the points of integration for easier management, fl exibility and scalability.

Current state of meaningful-use attestation It is important to note that while hospitals became eligible to begin meaningful-use attestation in 2011, not all have done so to date. In an announcement in late 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) postponed the start of Stage 2 meaningful use from its original 2013 date to 2014. As a result of the postponement, some are recommending eligible hospitals wait until 2012 to attest to meaningful-use requirements. The reasoning is that there are no incentives

lost for starting attestation in 2012. In fact, waiting until 2012 gives many hospitals greater visibility into Stage 2 requirements, which will be fully defi ned in June of this year. While hospitals are at varying phases of implementa- tion to meet requirements, 2012 will be an important year to evaluate the big picture and create a scalable plan to meet all three phases.

Making more meaningful use of data through device integration

It is clear from the above assumptions that medical device integration could play an important role in helping hospitals meet meaningful-use criteria in all three phases. It is also clear that its implementation can improve overall patient care and safety because nurses have more time for patient care, errors are virtually eliminated and decision making is improved be- cause data is available in near real time in the patient’s record. These reasons alone justify its implementation.

Imagine the ability to take collected data and compare, contrast and analyze it from multiple sources and then deliver it back to caregivers.

However, let’s explore how device integration will evolve to deliver the even greater benefi t of transforming patient safety and outcomes. Imagine the ability to take collected data and compare, contrast and analyze it from multiple sources and then deliver it back to caregivers in a meaning- ful way. Imagine the possibility of being able to create and deliver encounter reports to help manage sepsis. Imagine the ability to effectively manage smart-pump connectivity and bi-directional communication. These are all possible through a middleware device-integration solution.

Device integration: an agile, scalable solution that delivers benefi ts today and tomorrow

As with any government regulations, requirements may be explicitly defi ned, but the path to meeting those require- ments is not. Hospitals must be strategic in the way they approach technology investments and implementations. To meet meaningful-use requirements in return for federal stimulus money is a step but not the goal. Hospitals must not lose sight of the reasons they implement technologies: to increase effi ciencies and improve patient care. The year 2015 will come and go and hospitals will still remain. Deci- sions and investments made now will have a long and lasting impact on the future of healthcare. The best approach is to create an agile, scalable healthcare environment that can adapt to the changing needs of patients for years to come. With all the benefi ts hospitals can realize with device in- tegration, it should be one technology on the short list for implementation.


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