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Reinventing patient monitors

by Carol Ko, Staff Writer | May 13, 2013
From the May 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

But developing EMR integration in a way that doesn’t sacrifice productivity is exceedingly difficult. Poorly executed EMR integration plans are common, with uncommunicative EMR or monitoring systems adding more headaches and lost productivity.

“Most facilities want to have vital signs data from devices integrated into their EMR system. But many solutions out there cost extra steps or [diverts] the workflow,” says Will Fox, director of US and Canada marketing at Welch Allyn.

Lack of interoperability is a notorious problem in the health care space. But this is expected to change soon as demand grows for better integration. Patient monitor firms without a proprietary EMR system such as Spacelabs may be poised to take advantage of this shift. “You’ll see companies have changed their tune a little bit. Everyone needs to play in the sandbox now,” says Monica Pinkernell, North American director of marketing at Spacelabs.

Data integration is a big point of discontent for doctors trying to make sense of a dizzying array of information across multiple monitors, workstations and systems. The digital age now provides doctors with more access to patient information and parameters than they’ve ever had before, but this ironically poses an added challenge for them as they try to make quick decisions treating patients amid seemingly endless—and not always useful— amounts of data.

Dr. Nikolaos Skubas, cardiac anesthesiologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, wants a monitoring informatics system that not only integrates all patient data under one master monitor, but also simplifies information for doctors. For instance, if two contradictory readings appeared, the system would know to cancel out one of the readings using an algorithm. “We need to have a monitor that checks everything and makes sure whatever you read makes sense,” he says.

Rage against the machine
But as the conversation increasingly pivots around patient data access, management and integration, manufacturers seek to expand their product focus beyond the machines themselves, recasting themselves instead as peddlers of patient data informatics. “We’re talking less and less about patient monitors themselves and focusing instead on information: how to access it, how to move it. It’s about a total solution,” says Pinkernell.

Julia Strandberg, vice president of global marketing, patient monitoring at Covidien, predicts biosensor-driven patient data aggregation will eventually take the place of patient monitoring machines as we know it. Biometric sensors placed around the hospital would automatically record and register patients’ identities and parameters as they moved through the hospital, communicating the data to a cloud system that would aggregate and relay it back to a database that stores information on the patient.

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