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Making Medical Devices Work Together

June 2, 2011
by By John DeGaspari
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Making medical devices truly interoperable needs to be a team effort

I recently had an opportunity to speak with Julian Goldman, M.D., who is medical director of biomedical engineering for Partner HealthCare System and an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also a man with a mission: to raise awareness about medical device interoperability, which he regards as a means to achieving effective and lower cost system integration. In 2004 he founded the Medical Device Plug and Play (MD PnP) Interoperability Program to promote innovation in patient safety and clinical care.

Dr. Goldman gives an example to illustrate why this is so important. A patient lying in bed is receiving medication in one arm by an infusion pump; on the other arm an automated blood pressure cuff is monitoring blood pressure. “You would think, that if the nurse starts medication that could potentially drop blood pressure, that there would be a way to hook up the system so that it would stop the infusion of medication,” he says. But in fact, that’s impossible, because the systems don’t interconnect, so you can’t apply decision support logic of send a command to the infusion pump to stop. “All you can do is have an alarm at the nursing station, so that if the nurse hears the alarm, and if she is not busy, she can come into the room and stop the medication.”

That is unacceptable, he says. And while acknowledging that the goal of achieving device interoperability will take time, the industry—provider organizations, vendors and regulators—should make system integration a priority. As the healthcare industry moves toward electronic health records, medical devices must migrate toward networked devices that can send and receive data and actually do something with it.

And fortunately there has been some progress on all three fronts. To name one: including the ratification of new industry standard, IEC 80001, which outlines a process for managing risk as medical devices are integrated into the IT infrastructure of a provider organization. To be sure, medical device integration is a shared responsibility between providers, medical device manufacturers and IT vendors.

More on the work being done to make medical interoperable will appear in the July issue of Healthcare Informatics.
 

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I find the concept of medical interoperability fascinating and exciting as it is actually coming to be. This is one reason I'm studying to work in this field. Thanks for the contribution.

John DeGaspari

Managing Editor

John DeGaspari

www.healthcare-informatics.com

John DeGaspari is a journalist with more than 20 years of experience reporting and writing about...