Will 2013 Be The Year Of EMR/Device Convergence? Nope.

Posted on December 31, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Increasingly, healthcare organizations are introducing wireless medical devices which can hook up to EMRs.  And this makes a lot of sense, given that data from, say, infusion pumps offers a critical part of a patient’s overall picture and can boost safety as well.  On the other  hand, equipment and integration costs have held back hospitals from widespread convergence.

Given these opposing forces, it it looks like we’re poised at a point where adoption of wireless, EMR-connectible devices could gather momentum or stall out and drag into 2014 or beyond. But don’t get your hopes up for 2013. Here’s some trends that are likely to drag down the progress of medical device connectivity for the coming year:

* Device interoperability not required for Stage 2:  According to one blogger, William Hyman of Medical Connectivity, Stage 2 of Meaningful Use doesn’t directly doesn’t require providers to connect most traditional devices to the EMR. (Imaging and lab systems are exceptions, he notes.)  Well, if Stage 2 doesn’t require smart devices, must less connected ones, it’s hard to imgine CIOs making this a priority.

FCC initiatives to benefit wireless medical device use aren’t mature yet:  The FCC is taking several steps to encourage the use of connected medical devices. These include promoting the use of medical body area networks (MBANs), for which it has reserved spectrum, as well as making frequencies available for medical micropower networks. The agency is also working on making it easier to experimentally license spectrum for wireless health test beds for wireless medical devices.  These initiatives are just getting rolling, however.

Medical devicemakers face big EMR challenges:  As Medical Connectivity’s Tim Gee notes, creating device software that will smoothly pump data into an EMR is actually a pretty big challenge.  Devicemakers will need to export data in digital form, work with a central server aggregating data from your medical devices and translate you device data into HL7 for the EMR. Device vendors face big development expenses if they hope to get this right, he notes.

Will the wireless medical device become a standard part of hospital gear? I’d say it’s only a matter of time. But this year, progress is likely to be slow.