A Road Map for Medical Device Interoperability: Seven Key Steps to Help Your Facility Establish and Maintain Interoperability

February 1, 2013 | Evaluations & Guidance


In the healthcare community, medical device interoperability is on the rise. This trend, driven largely by the introduction of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act and by an increasing reliance on electronic health records (EHRs), has been felt across the healthcare industry as more hospitals take on interoperability projects and more medical device manufacturers offer features to facilitate interoperability of their devices. And it shows no signs of stopping: Conferences on interoperability, such as the Interoperability Summit convened by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) and FDA in October 2011, are drawing large crowds. And an increasing number of ECRI Institute member hospitals have been asking us to assist in interoperability-related efforts, prompting us to incorporate more information on the interoperability capabilities of the products we review in our Evaluations.

Medical device interoperability encompasses a broad spectrum of applications. It might include, for example, communication between spot-check vital signs monitors and the EHR, between a ventilator and a physiologic monitoring system, and between the monitoring system and an end-user alarm-notification system. Tackling these projects within the scope of an enterprise-wide interoperability plan can reduce costs, simplify implementation and maintenance, and maximize benefits. But it can be a daunting prospect, and hospitals sometimes struggle to find their way through the process.

In healthcare, the term “interoperability” is sometimes used interchangeably with the terms “integration” and “connectivity.” But these terms may...

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