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Emerging Trends in Technology
J P Systems, Inc.

Healthcare Device Interoperability Planning

Medical device interoperability is the ability of medical devices and health care systems to seamlessly communicate and exchange information. West Health predicts, “Improved interoperability between medical devices and EHRs would save the healthcare system $30 billion a year.”

Just as Health IT runs across many difficulties when trying to establish interoperability, so does the medical device community. Hospitals are often stuck in their purchasing methods, which may only allow the purchase of new capital every ten years. Interoperability requires new device purchases to be made now, and such an investment may not be possible. Many healthcare facility systems do not have the adaptability to connect with competing manufacturer technologies, so they are forced to replace equipment just to achieve compatibility. Establishing industry standards could easily solve this problem. So far there has not been much cooperation from manufacturers in light of agreeing on standards because inevitably, some would be forced to update or develop new capabilities for their existing products.

A step in the right direction occurred this year when the Food and Drug Administration announced that they would release draft guidance for manufacturers who are planning on making interoperable medical devices. So far, the FDA has identified 25 voluntary standards. While mandatory manufacturer standards would help push this technology into everyday use, at least the FDA is realizing the importance of interoperability, and manufacturers and hospitals have one place to look for compatibility guidelines.

Source: FDA to offer draft guidance on interoperability of medical devices

Patient Portals

A patient portal is a web-based application that is designed to help patients and doctors communicate outside of regularly scheduled appointments. It creates an extra point of contact that can be used to view medical records, ask small medical questions with the chat function, schedule an appointment, or pay medical bills online. Doctor and nurse response times to inquiries from the portals have greatly increased as compared to phone messages.

Portals are designed to “boost patient involvement in care” by encouraging an ongoing dialogue with the doctor and an easy application to review health documentation and results. In addition, they save time and money by addressing smaller issues online instead of in-person.

As with any new technology, there are challenges that arise. Doctor’s need to make it clear to patients that portals are not to be used in emergency situations or for problems that are too complicated.

Meaningful use, the federal mandate to increase healthcare IT efficiency, is not possible to achieve without at least 5% of an institution’s patients using online patient portals. This further incentivizes their use, so the trend is likely to increase within the healthcare industry as both patients and health institutions benefit.

Sources: How Patient Portals are Changing Health Care, Healthcare IT Index: Patient Portals

Real Time Location Systems (RTLS)

Real-time location systems are wireless transmitter tags that are able to track the precise location of people or objects within a designated area. RTLS has many functions within a health institution. They are able to locate equipment or personnel during particularly busy times, optimize the flow of patients to increase room assignment efficiency, and log off secure devices with personal health information (PHI) when they leave secure locations. This new technology also has the potential to save hospitals money by decreasing the percentage of devices that are lost or misplaced.

Source: Healthcare IT Index: Real Time Location Systems (RTLS)

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