Interoperability Growing Despite Lack of Incentives

May 29, 2015

Governments and standards organizations worldwide are moving toward a healthcare delivery system where devices work together, but devicemakers may need better incentives to get on board, an analyst says.

Shruthi Parakkal, a senior research analyst with Frost & Sullivan, says governments in the U.S., EU and other jurisdictions have been encouraging interoperability by issuing standards and guidance documents. “It’s not that the standards have not been set. It’s that they have not been utilized to the proper level due to a lack of incentives,” she says.

Governments will need to step in with regulations before interoperability among medical devices becomes routine, because it’s not always clear to companies what the benefits are, Parakkal told IDDM. Devicemakers typically use proprietary technology that blocks their devices from communicating with other products, and they often lack the expertise or willingness to change, she adds.

Factors preventing the design of interoperable devices include:

  • A perception that the devicemaker is primarily a software developer and can better spend R&D funds on other efforts;
  • Reluctance to involve the FDA or other regulatory authorities;
  • The lack of a strong industry culture of interoperability, such as is found in aerospace; and
  • The need to invest in fast-changing new technologies like WiFi and Bluetooth to maintain interoperability.

Meanwhile, hospitals and caregivers want devices that talk to one another, but are often constrained by cost considerations and lack of in-house expertise, says Parakkal, who authored a recent Frost & Sullivan report on healthcare and medical device connectivity and interoperability. To get around those issues, many opt for third-party connectivity that is vendor-neutral. An example is a software vendor that designs products allowing devices used in hospitals to feed into a common medical record system.
— Elizabeth Orr