Coping with Convergence: A Road Map for Successfully Combining Medical and Information Technologies

October 1, 2008 | Evaluations & Guidance


Hospitals are facing a changing world—one in which medical devices have become more software based, computer dependent, and networkable. The exchange of medical information has become vital to the operation of a healthcare facility, including population of electronic health records (EHRs) and electronic medical records (EMRs). Medical devices must interact with different information systems and information technology (IT) networks. In short, there is a growing interrelationship between medical technology and IT—a situation we refer to in this article as converging technology,or simply convergence.

Convergence can impact areas ranging from the very specific to the very general. Most commonly, it involves the exchange of data such as vital signs information, patient alarms, radiographic images, cardiac waveforms, clinical lab results, prescriptions, and nurses’ notes. But convergence issues also encompass a much broader range of circumstances. For example, consider the following scenarios:

All of these can involve a complex series of decisions that affect many areas of the hospital.

Convergence offers significant benefits, including streamlining of workflows, seamless communication of information, and an overall improvement in patient care. But it also raises significant concerns about potential new or additional patient safety risks, information security, and the need to define the roles and responsibilities of IT staff versus clinical engineering (CE) staff. And it affects all areas of the hospital, including clinical groups (e.g., nursing, radiology), support groups (e.g., CE, IT), and administrative groups (e.g., risk management, contracts/purchasing). Consequently, it requires the attention, cooperation, and support of executive and senior management.

This article explains the importance of convergence and the ways it can affect hospital operations and patient care. It also provides a road map that can help hospitals effectively and successfully implement integrated systems and technologies. Since the strategy provided is a high-level resource, future *Health...

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