Integrating Medical Device Data With EMRs Likely To Be Slow

Posted on April 6, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

While most healthcare organizations have their hands full integrating their various clinical databases, that leaves another set of problems untouched.  As things stand, EMR implementation efforts don’t generally involve connections to key medical devices.

Medical connectivity consultant Tim Gee sums it up nicely in a recent blog entry:

Medical device manufacturers in markets that have managed to resist creating connectivity solutions are facing increased pressure from providers adopting EMRs. I mean, what’s the use of automating the EMR if users have to write down numbers read from medical device displays and then manually type them into the EMR? That’s certainly not “automation.”

Gee then goes into a discussion underscoring just how big a challenge it will be for device manufacturers to close this gap. Broadly speaking, he says, devicemakers have to meet three criteria:

  • Be able to export data in a digital form.
  • Work with a centralized computer or server that aggregates data from your medical devices.
  • Offer HL7 interface that takes your device data, in your proprietary protocol, converts it to HL7 and sends it on to the EMR.

While these criteria may not sound too intimidating, there’s actually many, many unresolved issues as to how these solutions will play out for the medical device industry, he notes.  Device vendors will either have to do a great deal of custom work to meet standards or invest heavily in outsourced development.

Why do I bring all of this up?  Well, from the looks of Gee’s analysis, I’m guessing it will be quite some time before medical device makers universally offer plug-and-play data feeds into EMRs.

Though they may be under great pressure to integrate, devicemakers aren’t going to be able to do it overnight, particularly given that the EMR market itself continues to evolve rapidly.

While this isn’t great news, we might as well be realistic.  For the time being, I’d plan for manual data export from devices and hope for the best.