- Hospitals need to exert their purchasing power on health IT vendors to embrace interoperability and data sharing, researchers at Johns Hopkins write in an opinion piece in Harvard Business Review.
- While hospitals eagerly upgrade to cutting-edge equipment, lack of interoperability undermines the advantages the tech can offer. “For years, hospitals have invested in sophisticated devices and IT systems that, on their own, can be awe-inspiring,” the authors say. “Yet these technologies rarely share data, let alone leverage it to support better clinical care.
- By adopting interoperability standards and demanding products that meet written specifications and functional requirements, hospitals could improve patient care and productivity while reducing overall costs, the authors add.
The op-ed takes the idea one step further, suggesting vendors offer interoperable components that support a particular aspect of patient care, such as modular patient rooms or clinical units, which could be built to a hospital’s specifications.
“We don’t expect airlines to build their own planes. They buy them from experienced system integrators such as Boeing or Airbus,” the authors write, adding that hospitals should have a similar model. “The question is whether health care leaders will have the resolve to require it.”
Hospitals spend millions on top-notch equipment, but purchasing is often siloed without regard for whether the device communicates effectively, if at all, with other health IT such as EHRs. At the same time, medical costs are growing at around 6-7%, forcing hospitals to trim staff, reduce benefit plans and implement other belt-tightening measures.
Some hospitals are tackling the cost curve head on. Intermountain Healthcare, for example, increased workplace efficiencies and cut costs by engaging frontline clinicians and C-suite leaders in thinking about patient needs. The health system also developed a tool, ProComp, which has since been spun off into Empiric Health, which informs surgeons of prices of supplies they use in the operating room.
Even if digital devices communicate with one another, the lack of standards for health data puts full interoperability and data sharing out of reach. “While we’ve made progress in the last three to four years and have the promise of FHIR (fast healthcare interoperability resources), the standards in healthcare from a data exchange standpoint are very weak,” Paul Shenenberger, CIO of Summit Health Management, told Healthcare Dive in April.