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This Trend May Revolutionize Health Care. You Need to Talk About It.

image to represent medical connectivitySince 2009, electronic health records (EHRs) have been one of the single biggest trends in health care technology. From 2011 to November 2013, the federal government spent more than $17 billion funding “meaningful use” EHRs that were supposed to increase health care quality and save money in hospitals and ACOs across the nation. According to medical technology experts, however, EHRs have been slow to achieve either of these goals.

Scot Silverstein, an informatics expert and physician, says that EHR errors can be extremely difficult to correct and may even raise health care costs. All is not lost, however, as EHRs are about to take a big leap forward, thanks to medical connectivity.

Loosely defined as devices that talk to each other, medical connectivity is poised to revolutionize health care. It may just be the hottest trend in health care right now, and your marketing department can’t afford to not be talking about it.

Here’s what you need to know:

#1: EHRs failed to revolutionize the health care industry.

In 2005, RAND think tank announced that the rapid adoption of health care IT advancements, specifically EHRs, could save the industry $81 billion each year. These glowing predictions did not exactly pan out, however.

Medical expense reimbursement continues to favor volume rather than value. And some evidence suggests that EHRs may make it easier for physicians to order unnecessary tests, further raising health care costs. Furthermore, stages two and three of the government-backed EHR implementation plan ran into some roadblocks. Stage 2 requires EHRs to participate in a health information exchange, which theoretically would make it easy for information to seamlessly flow between providers. Providers, however, have been slow to implement this change, and ultimately, the government delayed the requirement deadline.

#2: Connectivity devices are poised to save $36 billion annually.

Unlike EHRs that ran into systemic implementation problems, connectivity devices (those medical devices that communicate with one another, regardless of the manufacturer) are poised to save $36 billion annually, according to the West Health Institute. While medical devices makers have had little incentive on their own to create connectivity devices, device manufacturers are now changing their tune thanks to a big push from hospitals and insurers.

#3: Connectivity improves efficiency and health care outcomes.

Consider the following scenario: an individual in the ICU is typically surrounded by up to 10 different medical devices monitoring vital signs. However, even with all these devices, in order to monitor oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream, an ICU nurse needs to first draw blood for lab testing, wait for the lab test results to come back, and then adjust the ventilator accordingly. This inefficient process occurs four to seven times each day. If medical devices could “talk” to one another, it would be possible to streamline this process, saving money and improving health care outcomes.

#4: Public and private health care partnerships may drive the push towards connectivity.

Innovative partnerships between public and private accountable care organizations are helping to drive this push towards connectivity. Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that 106 Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) will join the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). ACOs are health care entities that focus on lowering the cost of care, improving quality outcomes, and enhancing the overall care experience. While ACOs are still a work in progress, they are one innovative option for pushing medical-device makers towards improved connectivity options. These partnerships demonstrate that there is a true demand for better, safer and more effective health care.

The Future of Connectivity in the Health Care Industry

In order for medical connectivity to reach widespread adoption, both hospitals and insurers must push medical-device makers to improve medical connectivity availability, and leverage this capability in health care marketing. In order to accelerate this process, stakeholders must push medical-device makers to adopt common standards. Adopting new incentives for streamlined communication will result in improved patient outcomes, improved care quality and lowered costs.

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