Integrating wireless technology into medical devices presents the industry with both a carrot and a stick: Stimulus cash (carrot) versus increasing demand for connective devices from hospitals (stick).
Boston recently played host to the first-ever conference dedicated to the integration of medical devices and information systems, the Inaugural Medical Device Connectivity Conference and Exhibition.
The conference, which attracted more than 200 attendees and dealt with the technical and clinical issues associated with acquiring, pooling, and interpreting data from various medical devices, was especially timely considering a key aspect of the latest Obama gold rush (AKA the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (PDF)).
The ARRA specifically requires "meaningful use" of electronic health records in order for physicians to be in line for certain reimbursement. You’ll find much opinion and information about what exactly will comprise "meaningful use" (including the website www.meaningfuluse.org, maintained by The Assn. of Medical Directors of Information Systems). While the government won’t fully define this term for months, it's clear that data from medical devices must be ported into EHRs and clinicians must be able to act on this data.
In essence, the ARRA legislation provides a giant carrot for healthcare providers to purchase medical devices which can connect with each other and, ultimately, the central server system of the hospital. Hospitals will qualify for incentives only if they adopt, use and document connectable technology.
As the conference wore on, it became clear that hospitals are willing to turn around and use this opportunity as a stick with which to push greater connectivity on their vendors, the medical device manufacturers. Hospital administrators, IT staff and nurses see that this connectivity can allow them to be more efficient and provide superior patient care.
Interestingly, the conference audience was split about evenly between engineers and IT folk, but the number of clinicians was limited to one or two MDs and a small handful of RNs. Also, nearly half the attendees were from hospitals, while the other half were from vendor companies with a vested interest in the field. The remaining 10 percent was mainly comprised of consultants and academics.