How important is medical device interoperability when it comes to patient safety? The answer is very important. According to a survey of 500 nurses from the Gary and Mary West Health Institute, half have witnessed a medical error due to a lack of informational sharing between devices.
The survey states, “Several of the most common causes of medical errors could be mitigated by improved medical device interoperability, including drug errors (accounting for 20 percent of adverse events), diagnostic errors (17 percent) and failure to prevent injury (12 percent).”
Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Some estimate as many as 440,000 people die in hospitals each year from these errors. If medical device connectivity can reduce these errors, why hasn’t it happened?
The importance of medical device interoperability has, in fact, long been recognized as a key to patient safety. Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) formed the Patient Care Domain (PCD) in 2005 to address the integration of medical devices into the healthcare enterprise, from the point-of-care to the EHR, potentially resulting in significant improvements in patient safety and quality of care.
Five years later, HIMSS Analytics put out a report about the subject that found:¹:
- 90 percent of the hospitals surveyed by HIMSS use six or more types of devices that could be integrated with EHRs but only a third of hospitals actually integrate medical devices with EHRs.
- Hospitals who do invest in interoperability only integrate fewer than three types of devices on average.
- There is an increased risk to patient safety due to incomplete or outdated information, stemming from a lack of interoperability.
Finally, in August 2013, the FDA elected to recognize a set of standards gathered from IEC, ANSI, ASTM, and ISO sources concerning medical device interoperability. At present, the Standards Management Staff (SMS) continually updates currently recognized standards and coordinates the recognition of new voluntary consensus standards for medical devices and radiation-emitting electronic products. SMS ensures appropriate medical device standards are published in the Federal Register at least twice annually.
Good News Ahead
According to an article from Forbes.com, medical interoperability is slated to grow over 800 percent in 7 years. Transparency Market Research recently published a report anticipating a 38 percent compound annual growth rate in the market for medical device connectivity through 2019.
Device makers in the past have had little incentive to create devices that are interoperable with EHRs. Now, with hospital reimbursements dependent upon positive ratings and performance and with the increase in the number of Accountable Care Organizations (ACO), both hospitals and insurers are incentivized to team up and use their leverage with device makers to establish standards which enable connectivity.
This can translate into more time nurses can spend with patients, a decrease in medical errors, and most importantly, fewer avoidable patient deaths.
In terms of the impact medical device interoperability can have on saving lives, the information is out there. Although moving at what can be considered a snail’s pace, we can take solace in the fact that at least it’s on the right path.
- HIMSS Analytics. Medical devices landscape: current and future adoption, integration with EMRs, and connectivity [Internet]. Chicago: HIMSS Analytics; 2010 [cited 2012 Oct 25]. Available from: http://www.himssanalytics.org/docs/medicaldevices_landscape.pdf