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Report: Medical device communication could save $30 billion

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A new analysis by the San Diego-based Gary and Mary West Health Institute reports medical device interoperability -- the ability for devices and health care systems to communicate with one another -- could save more than $30 billion a year and improve patient care.

The analysis was made public during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health in Washington, D.C. this week.

Dr. Joseph M. Smith, chief medical and science officer of WHI, shared the analysis as part of his testimony outlining regulatory and policy changes necessary to create integrated, interoperable systems to improve outcomes, lower costs and create higher-value health care focused on patient-centered solutions.

The report says that during a stay in an intensive care unit, patients are treated with six to 12 medical devices including defibrillators, electrocardiographs, vital sign monitors, ventilators, and infusion pumps. These devices are often from different manufacturers and not connected, requiring a costly, complex information technology infrastructure and introducing the possibility for miscommunication that may adversely affect patient outcomes.

"We see an enormous opportunity to use information technology and device innovation to bring about the much-needed transformation in health care delivery," said Smith. "Today's hospitals are filled with medical devices that are unable to share critical data, creating potential dangers to patients, as well as inefficiencies that put a tremendous financial burden on our health care system."

"Medical devices need to share data, based on standards, so that they can better inform clinicians and help patients," said Dr. Peter Pronovost, medical director for the Center for Innovation in Quality Patient Care at John Hopkins University. "By doing so, we can both improve quality and reduce costs."

To complete its study, WHI conducted interviews with industry stakeholders and used existing published research to estimate the financial impact on the U.S. health care system.

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