If healthcare could achieve the type of interoperability in devices and information technology (IT) systems other industries take for granted, the cost of care could be lowered by billions while patient outcomes are simultaneously improved finds a whitepaper issued jointly by the West Health Institute and Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).
The whitepaper summarizes the results of the HCI-DC 2014: Igniting an Interoperable Healthcare System  conference held last month in Washington, D.C., and is a call to healthcare system stakeholders to do more to advance interoperability, say the San Diego-based non-profit research and policy organization and the government agency.
“Interoperability is a burning issue that impairs care delivery, and patients are waiting for it to be improved,” said Nicholas Valeriani, chief executive of the Gary and Mary West Health Institute , in a press release announcing the availability of the free whitepaper. “Interoperability can enable a smarter healthcare delivery system and I encourage all stakeholders to recognize that the lack of interoperability is a crisis and to advocate for rapid change.”
However, although system wide the potential for savings is substantial, what has held healthcare interoperability efforts back is the question of costs, notes Gregg Malkary, founder and managing director of the Spyglass Consulting Group , a Menlo Park, Calif.-based market intelligence firm and consultancy focused on the current and future potential of mobile computing and wireless technologies in the healthcare industry. With immediate ROI on investments in interoperability uncertain, there has not been a strong incentive to move in this direction, but that could change soon according to his group’s latest research, "Point of Care Communications for Nursing 2014," which was released this week.
Using data gathered from more than 100 in-depth telephone surveys with care providers working in hospital-based environments nationwide and representing a broad range of medical specialties, organization types, and organization sizes, Spyglass found that, at least in point of care communications for nursing, the desire to make substantial changes in how hospitals utilize information technology and new mobile devices may have reached a tipping point. The report notes that 51 percent of the hospitals interviewed plan to evaluate enterprise-class nursing Smartphone solutions to support collaborative team-based care.
Yet, there is still a long way to go. “Despite advancements in mobile devices and unified communications, hospital IT has underinvested in technologies and processes to support nurses at point of care,” Malkary, stated. “Nearly 42 percent of hospitals interviewed are still reliant on pagers, noisy overhead paging systems and landline phones for communications and care coordination.”