Hospital execs working to learn how biomed, health IT increasingly fit together

Hospital technology is creating a link between biomedical engineering and the CIO. In a recent panel discussion with Hospitals & Health Networks, several hospital IT executives talked about the reporting structure involved, their integration challenges and how the technology works with clinical workflows.

At University of Chicago Medical Center and Biological Sciences, the clinical engineering department reports to the chief technology officer, who reports to Eric Yablonka, vice president and CIO for Chicago BioMedicine Information Services.

"This change was made several years ago as more and more medical devices [pumps, monitors, etc.] were becoming server-based, integrated into other systems or went wireless, and we knew it did not make sense to have the departments report to separate VPs," Yablonka said. "We believe we have a better understanding of the technologies and how they all fit together in our ecosystems, and with that the ability to better execute and deliver workflow and integrated solutions."

At Kaweah Delta Health Care District in Visalia, Calif., the clinical engineering department reports directly to Dave Gravender, vice president and CIO. He agreed with Yablonka's assessment that the number of devices connecting to the network prompted the change from reporting to facilities.

"Right after we moved the department over we were able to find a feature in our EKG system that allowed us to integrate images of the EKGs into the clinical repository," he said. "I don't think we would have discovered this functionality as early as we did in a different structure. We just didn't have our heads around that idea." 

Steven Menet, a vice president for Dräger Medical of Telford, Pa., described his organization's tech development strategy as follows:

"All new clinical applications and/or technologies that require integration to the clinical record or devices that must reside on the IT infrastructure are evaluated and signed off by the clinicians, engineering, biomed and IT," Menet said. "Each area is involved in the decision process from start to finish. No device becomes part of our infrastructure based upon a vendor recommendation."

The panel members pointed to vendors as their biggest integration challenge, which has led to, as Gravender put it, "some difficult conversations."

Future vendor relations will require some finesse, according to Sue Schade, CIO at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"Going forward, IT and biomed approaching the vendors as a combined force will be necessary for them to respond with workable solutions," Schade said. "There is still too much focus on vendor relations specific to either IT or biomed, but not both together."

Joseph Kvedar, M.D., director of the Boston-based Partners Center for Connected Health, said at a recent FierceHealthIT webinar that he sees better medical device interoperability coming as part of Meaningful Use Stage 3. That will be important as even more devices operate on hospital networks. The FCC's approval for "medical body area networks"--or MBANs--that can provide monitoring while freeing patients from hospital beds, only adds more.

In warning of a looming spectrum shortage for wireless, Deloitte's Craig Wigginton urged healthcare leaders to make sure they plan for innovation and growth.

To learn more:
- read the discussion

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