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Improved Device Interoperability Could Save $30B, Report Says

March 21, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
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A new analysis released by the West Health Institute (WHI) estimates that medical device interoperability could be a source of more than $30 billion a year in savings and improve patient care and safety.

At a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, Joseph M. Smith, M.D., chief medical and science officer of WHI, shared the analysis as part of his testimony outlining regulatory and policy changes necessary to create integrated, interoperable systems to improve outcomes, lower costs, and create higher-value healthcare focused on patient-centered solutions.

In a hospital today, patients at the point of care are treated with six to 12 medical devices in a typical intensive care unit, including defibrillators, electrocardiographs, vital sign monitors, ventilators, and infusion pumps. These devices are often from different manufacturers and not connected, requiring a costly, complex IT infrastructure, and introducing the potential for miscommunication that adversely affects patients.

“We see an enormous opportunity to use information technology and device innovation to bring about the much needed transformation in healthcare delivery,” Smith said in a statement. “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 in developing interoperability standards to date, the healthcare industry continues to fall short on adoption of those standards. Key areas in the analysis—titled “The Value of Medical Device Interoperability: Improving patient care with more than $30 billion in annual healthcare savings"— that demonstrate potential improvement to healthcare from lowered costs, improved patient care and increased collaboration between healthcare delivery and the medical device industry include:

  • 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
  • Provider costs to integrate devices with electronic health records (EHRs)
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