Press Release

Analysis by West Health Institute finds medical device interoperability could save more than $30 billion a year

2 min
March 20, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. and SAN DIEGO, CA – March 20, 2013 – A new analysis released today by the West Health Institute (WHI) at a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health estimates that medical device interoperability – the ability of medical devices and healthcare systems to seamlessly communicate and exchange information – could be a source of more than $30 billion a year in savings and improve patient care and safety.

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 healthcare focused on patient-centered solutions.

In a hospital today, patients at the point-of-care are treated with six to 12 medical devices in a typical intensive care unit, 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 (IT) infrastructure and introducing the potential for miscommunication that adversely affects patients.

“We see an enormous opportunity to use information technology and device innovation to bring about the much needed transformation in healthcare 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 healthcare system.”

While there has been progress made in developing interoperability standards to date, the healthcare industry continues to fall short on adoption of those standards.

“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.”

Analysis Design
The analysis, titled “The Value of Medical Device Interoperability: Improving patient care with more than $30 billion in annual healthcare savings,” is a first-of-its-kind effort, and is a starting point to understand the true potential of a connected healthcare marketplace that currently doesn’t exist.  WHI conducted interviews with industry stakeholders and used existing published research to estimate the financial impact on the U.S. healthcare system.

Download the full analysis here.
Key areas in the analysis that demonstrate potential improvement to healthcare from lowered costs, improved patient care and increased collaboration between healthcare delivery and the medical device industry include:

  • Adverse events avoidable with medical device interoperability;
  • Redundant testing resulting from inaccessible information;
  • Clinician time spent manually entering information;
  • Increased length of stay from delays in information transfer;
  • Device testing and development costs; and
  • Provider costs to integrate devices with electronic health records.

This analysis, driven by WHI’s work with the Medical Device Interoperability Coordination Council (MDICC), also illustrates how interoperability can positively impact patient care with several case studies. For example, functional interoperability could prevent adverse events due to drug errors. If a cancer patient’s pain medication is distributed by an infusion pump that receives direct information from that patient’s vital sign monitor, it could ensure the patient isn’t over-medicated by mistake; these systems are typically independent and require multiple manual settings, all of which increase the potential for error and raise costs.