Hospitals align to push for device interoperability

A coalition of hospitals and health systems formed this month will push for increased medical device interoperability as a means for improving patient care and lowering costs.

The nonprofit organization--known as the Center for Medical Interoperability--will be financially backed by the Gary and Mary West Foundation, according to an announcement. Founding Board Chairman Michael Johns called medical device interoperability key to "unlocking healthcare communications" in hospitals.

"By bringing hospital systems together, we can align all stakeholder interests in a neutral forum to include technology vendors, standards organizations, certification bodies, government agencies and healthcare associations under a common goal to improve healthcare," Johns said in a statement.

In a recent interview with InformationWeek Healthcare, Ed Cantwell, executive director of the new center, said the healthcare industry doesn't so much lack device interoperability standards as it does "reference architecture" embracing such standards.

What's more, he said, procurement power is necessary for driving device interoperability, something such a group could ensure deliver. "The only thing that gets the attention of vendors is procurement," Cantwell said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, last month, announced that voluntary medical device standards for interoperability now will be recognized. In particular, Bakul Patel, senior policy advisor to the director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at FDA, called those standards a "first step" toward helping manufacturers to create medical devices that can "work well" with each other.

"As medical devices become increasingly connected to other medical devices, hospital information systems and electronic health records, there is a growing expectation that they will be interoperable--and that the data they transmit will be secure," Patel said in an FDA Voice blog post. "Making sure devices are interoperable requires the creation, validation and recognition standards that help manufacturers develop products that are harmonious and can't plug."

West Health's financial commitment comes just six months after publishing an analysis concluding that improved medical device interoperability--combined with the adoption of commonly accepted standards for that interoperability--could save the U.S. more than $30 billion annually in healthcare costs.

To learn more:
- here's the West Health announcement
- read the InformationWeek Healthcare article

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