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Medical device, health IT interoperability could save $30B annually

A new report from the West Health Institute contends that improvements in the ability of medical devices and health IT systems to communicate and exchange data could lead to more than $30 billion a year in savings.

In recent testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, Joseph M. Smith, MD, chief medical and science officer of San Diego-based WHI, revealed these findings to the committee as it weighs policy changes aimed at mobile technology and medical devices.

In hospitals today, patients are treated with as many as a dozen medical devices in a typical intensive care unit, according to WHI, including defibrillators, electrocardiographs, vital sign monitors, ventilators and infusion pumps. These devices are often from different manufacturers and not connected, requiring a costly and complex IT infrastructure – and introducing the potential for miscommunication that could lead to adverse events.

“We see an enormous opportunity to use information technology and device innovation to bring about the much needed transformation in healthcare delivery,” said Smith. “Today’s hospitals are filled with medical devices that are unable to share critical data, creating potential dangers to patients, as well as inefficiencies that put a tremendous financial burden on our healthcare system.”

While there has been progress made on interoperability standards, the healthcare industry continues to fall short on adoption of those standards.

WHI's report, “The Value of Medical Device Interoperability: Improving patient care with more than $30 billion in annual health care savings,” is based on interviews with industry stakeholders uses existing published research to estimate the financial impact on the U.S. healthcare system.

The study shows potential that lowered costs and increased quality could be derived from improvements in several key areas:

  • Adverse events avoidable with medical device interoperability;
  • Redundant testing resulting from inaccessible information;
  • Clinician time spent manually entering information;
  • Increased length of stay from delays in information transfer;
  • Device testing and development costs; and
  • Provider costs to integrate devices with electronic health records.

The analysis, which stems from WHI’s work with the Medical Device Interoperability Coordination Council, also includes several case studies that show how interoperability can improve patient care.

One example, according to the report, shows how functional interoperability could prevent adverse events due to drug errors. If a cancer patient’s pain medication is distributed by an infusion pump that receives direct information from that patient’s vital sign monitor, it could ensure the patient isn’t over-medicated by mistake; these systems are typically independent and require multiple manual settings, all of which increase the potential for error and raise costs.

“Medical devices need to share data, based on standards, so that they can better inform clinicians and help patients,” said Peter Pronovost, MD, medical director for the Center for Innovation in Quality Patient Care at John Hopkins University. “By doing so, we can both improve quality and reduce costs.”

Download the full report here: www.westhealth.org/institute/interoperability

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