A Rising Drumbeat for Interoperability


The past few months have been very exciting in our journey to create a smarter, safer, more affordable healthcare system.

Today, the Center for Medical Interoperability announced its impressive Board of Directors, collectively representing more than 500 hospitals and healthcare systems.

These healthcare leaders are uniting under the Center to reimagine how information is shared in the healthcare marketplace and transform the way healthcare is delivered in this country. This announcement is major step toward advancing our goal to achieve plug-and-play interoperability for healthcare.

Just this past January, a national survey of more than 500 nurses was conducted online by Harris Poll on our behalf. We wanted to find out the impact that the lack of interoperability has on nurses providing care to their patients. The responding nurses worked in a non-school setting and were employed full-time…with a bachelor’s degree in nursing or higher, and a title of registered nurse or higher.

What we found was staggering:

  • •  93 percent of nurses strongly agreed that medical devices should be able to seamlessly share data • with one another…automatically.
  • •  74 percent strongly agreed that it is burdensome to coordinate the data collected by medical devices.
  • •  50 percent of the nurses surveyed said they have witnessed a medical error because of a lack of device coordination.

In March, we were pleased to be joined by more than 600 people online and in the Knight Studio at the Newseum to share these results and discuss the importance of integrated medical technologies in creating a more connected healthcare ecosystem. The panel discussed how vital it is for all forms of healthcare technology, including medical devices and electronic health records, to seamlessly exchange information so that the quality and safety of care can be improved and costs can be reduced.

Each year, it is estimated that more than 400,000 Americans die from preventable medical errors. This not only takes an enormous emotional toll on families and friends, but also places a heavy economic burden on the nation – an estimated trillion dollars or higher. I reinforced this point at the National Quality Forum’s annual meeting while speaking to critical healthcare stakeholders, helping to mobilize nursing organizations to join us in our efforts

At West Health, we’re pleased that regulatory and governing bodies such as the FDA and ONC are placing a high priority on making our healthcare system truly interoperable. Policymakers are considering business incentives to hasten interoperability, both for EHRs and medical devices. The ONC is collaborating with the health IT and health sector to define a shared roadmap for achieving interoperable health IT that supports a broad scale learning health system by 2024.

This comes on the heels of the West Health Institute and the Center submitting public comments on the ONC’s Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap in an effort to draw attention to the crucial role medical devices play in improving patient safety and increasing efficiency. Current attention on interoperability has focused almost entirely on electronic health records (EHRs). Working with other stakeholders, like you, we want to ensure that medical devices are included in that important body of work, not just EHRs. Doing so would greatly benefit patients and workplace efficiency in medical settings – a place where it is desperately needed.

Recently, we also had the opportunity to meet with key members of Congress in the House and Senate to share our perspective on why medical device interoperability is so critical. Dr. Burgess’ leadership on the vitally important issue of interoperability with respect to 21st Century Cures is laudable and we are advancing our perspective that the topic of interoperability not be limited to EHRs.

Our message is clear: PRIORITIZE MEDICAL DEVICE interoperability and EHR interoperability EQUALLY.

And we are being heard. After years of work on this critical topic, interoperability has come to the forefront of solutions to transform our failing healthcare system. The drumbeat is getting louder, but now it’s time to ensure that interoperability includes medical devices.