Lessons Learned from EHR Integration of Medical Devices
Author: Kathy Inkley, Epic Project Manager
Human lives depend on how well a healthcare organization manages its EHR integration of medical devices.
As the assigned project manager spearheading numerous large health system enterprise-wise medical device integration programs for over a decade, I’ve learned an essential lesson about EHR integration of medical devices.
Data captured from thousands of heart monitors, ventilators, balloon pumps, and other bedside devices must be perfectly managed, seamlessly integrated, and standardized to each patient’s electronic health record (EHR) and then made accessible to multiple providers. Once synced properly across the care continuum, connected medical devices play a critical role in the transfer of near real-time, reliable data to EHRs that improve both the safety and quality of patient care.
Otherwise, failing to do so can prove fatal.
Lessons borne out of experience
My role in bringing together clinicians, IT experts and device vendor representatives is to achieve that goal through flawless organization of precise integration methods and over-communication. Sharing information among these three teams is paramount to our success — that is, we’re managing vital data used by physicians and nurses as analytics in making life-changing medical decisions as quickly as possible.
Additionally, I have learned other valuable lessons about EHR integration of medical devices.
Start with a clean inventory list of biomedical devices and equipment planned for the device integration project. This list should comprise the number counts of all devices and supporting equipment including firmware versions and serial ports in addition to Ethernet gateway connections.
At the project’s onset evaluate and identify devices lacking the capability to integrate. Identify older firmware versions and research feasibility of cost to update as opposed to replacement.
Conduct walkthroughs on clinical rounds to determine data points for integration in order to identify network cabling and power needs. At that time, initiate engaging device vendors and setting clear deadlines and key parameters for the EHR integration.
Ensure middleware vendors partnering with the medical facilities supply all security-related product information upfront.
Invite middleware vendors to an onsite visit to determine exactly how much hardware is needed to ensure connectivity with other devices. Also include them in weekly or biweekly team update meetings. They are oftentimes overlooked.
Be adaptable and versatile to make quick adjustments while also striving to deliver impeccable results. Since workflows are not usually established upfront, responsibilities get shuffled around and integration details quickly become overwhelming.
Find creative ways to facilitate communication among the different team members. For example, assign color-coded status levels — green, yellow and red — to flag a change in project progression to speed up problem resolution. When senior management tackles red status issues as a group, expect people to pay attention!
Organization translates to project acceleration
Finally, organization of every integration detail is imperative. Associated device hardware, such as installing mounting hardware and new monitors in each patient room, must be managed. Biomedical managers, hospital IT groups, and clinical administrators must work concurrently to coordinate every step. In my experience, managing all of these different teams is by far the most challenging aspect of device integration.
Our healthcare ecosystem is slowly but surely modernizing, and we must leverage our technologies every possible way to maximize delivery of patient care to improve outcomes and the patient-provider experience. Ultimately, the success of any enterprise-wide EHR integration of medical devices is founded on strong communication and organization in addition to data management.
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