Improving patient care and lowering costs through interoperability

By: Zahir Abji

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the thousands of paper folders in your physician’s office were destroyed? I did, for a very long time. The advent of electronic health records (EHRs) and electronic medical records (EMRs) mitigated that risk. However, it was only in the last decade that interoperability between disparate EHR systems was addressed to effectively support coordinating care. Besides massive amounts of patient data, hospitals are also faced with the challenge of managing a huge variety of increasingly complex systems and equipment used for patient care. Interoperability between these is the key to lowering cost, and improving the quality of patient care.

As an example, real-time equipment location provided by real-time location systems (RTLS) can save nurses considerable time, allow Biomed to streamline maintenance, and assist accounting with billing and regulatory compliance. Intuitively, it would be significantly more efficient and effective if the data from the RTLS system was instantaneously delivered and presented within the systems of these three departments, rather than having to manually create reports and input this data. HL7 profiles, initiated by the IHE for interoperability between hospital systems, is designed to do just that.

Preventive maintenance plays a significant role in lowering cost, and improving the quality of patient care. The global medical equipment maintenance market is expected to reach $2.2b USD by 2020. A major reason for this growth is the need to collect equipment data and integrate it within existing healthcare systems. The Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise Medical Equipment Management Device Management Communication (IHE MEMDMC) profile provides a mechanism for automatic enrollment, real-time visibility, and alerting of medical equipment non-clinical status to management systems such as CMMS and RTLS. The significant thing to note, is the fact that this information is delivered by the equipment itself, eliminating traditional, cumbersome, and often error-prone manual data entry methods taking up valuable staff time, and hence reducing cost.

Initiatives that eliminate manual data manipulation can significantly boost efficiency, accuracy and productivity in hospitals, and reduce costs. MEMDMC, for example, can help to enhance maintenance of equipment, keep regulatory compliance up-to-date, and free up staff time from menial data collection tasks, to focus on more meaningful activities. The improved efficiency thus increases the facility’s ROI on purchased medical equipment.

Studies show that inefficiencies and slow adoption of the latest technologies is costing the healthcare industry billions of dollars. For example, it’s reported that the U.S. healthcare system wastes an estimated $765 billion in medical supplies and equipment every year. A survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute shows that outdated communication technologies decreases clinician productivity and increases patient discharge times, with an estimated annual cost of more than $8.3 billion.

IT has a big part to play in helping to reverse this trend. As Healthcare IT continues to move rapidly towards interoperable and open standards, tools such as MEMDMC will be the keys for enabling growth in enterprise intelligence, converting data into meaningful actionable information, measuring asset and staff efficiency, and thus reducing cost and improving the patient experience.

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