Walk into any emergency room and you will see a plethora of connected devices attached to patients, beeping and displaying blood pressure and other vital signs on a continuous basis. Similarly, in the operating room, an anaesthesiologist has a completely integrated suite of equipment that collects, stores, and displays vital information for immediate action if needed.
This is the promise for EMRs — the ability to have the mundane and repetitive tasks of measuring vital signs collected and immediately integrated into the EMR. All without any further effort other than connecting the cuff or monitor to the patient. Now, that would be a real time saver, and would also reduce inaccuracies related to entering data into the EMR. While this seems to be a logical next step for EMRs, there are some challenges and points to consider with regard to connected medical devices.
- Integrating devices into an EMR is a costly and time-intensive process. While there are standards that have been developed, each EMR has a proprietary database and structure. As a result, building and maintaining the EMR interface requires ongoing commitment by the vendor, particularly as new versions of the EMR software are released.
- Not all integrated devices are the same. The integrated devices market varies country by country. In the United States and Canada, the market is dominated by Philips, Welch Allyn, and GE with the majority of devices more focused towards the hospital setting. In addition, the amount of interface development with a specific EMR system can result in significant differences in the way the data is presented in the EMR.
- An important first step is to do a careful workflow analysis in your practice to determine what you need. For example, if your computers are fixed in each exam room and you can plug each device into a computer, you may not need wireless connected medical devices. This can significantly reduce the cost of connecting devices to your EMR.
- What kind of connected devices are available? The majority of devices for the EMR tend to be for vital signs monitoring (BP, Pulse, Temp, SpO2). A wider range of devices are available for cardiologists; however, beyond that a very limited selection is available.
Even if your EMR vendor does not yet offer integration with connected diagnostic devices, share your needs and desires. As with the tablet market, it took Apple getting the iPad right before we saw a widespread availability of tablets. I expect the same to happen once we have some exceptional connected devices.
Do you use any connected devices with your EMR? Click on the “Comments” link to share your experiences.