Improved med device interoperability could save $30B in health costs

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, according to an analysis published this week by the San Diego-based West Health Institute.

The report's authors note that the annual financial benefits from interoperability would be based on four primary activities:

  • Quality improvement via less adverse events due to safety interlocks ($2 billion)

  • Less redundant testing ($3 billion)

  • Less time spent manually entering information, leading to improved clinician productivity due ($12 billion)

  • Shorter patient length of stay, leading to an increased capacity for treatment ($18 billion)

"We see an enormous opportunity to use information technology and device innovation to bring about the much needed transformation in healthcare delivery," WHI Chief Medical and Science Officer Joseph M. Smith said in testimony delivered before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on Wednesday, where the analysis was unveiled. "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."

A paper published in January compiled from themes discussed at a summit on medical device interoperability held last fall also called for improved interoperability standards. The summit was conducted by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Additionally, a report published last fall by the ECRI Institute identified interoperability failures with medical devices and health IT systems as one of the top 10 health technology hazards for 2013.

"Medical devices need to share data, based on standards, so that they can better inform clinicians and help patients," Peter Pronovost, medical director for the Center for Innovation in Quality Patient Care at John Hopkins University, said, according to an announcement accompanying the WHI report. "By doing so, we can both improve quality and reduce costs."

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)
- here's Smith's testimony (.pdf)
- check out the announcement