Integrating your medical device with EHRs and other health information systems can provide your customers with additional convenience and access to new data that can support value-based care models. However, many traditional device vendors lack technical expertise in connecting devices to the cloud and integrating them with customer systems.

In our experience working with MedTech companies to strategize and implement a plan for device interoperability, we’ve picked up on a few common misconceptions that have led teams awry or caused delays in their project. Take note of these before you begin to develop an integration plan to help avoid unnecessary setbacks.

1. “The Hospital Doesn’t Want to Allow Access to External Devices”

From our experience, this is rarely the case. It’s likely that hospitals will be interested in integrating with new connected technologies, especially if they can save time, money and can demonstrate improved outcomes. However, the following must also be true:

  1. Your product’s value proposition is clear;
  2. Accessing external devices will benefit the hospital, patients and/or employees and;
  3. Your security procedures and policies around data governance are robust and clearly explained.

If you haven’t received an openness or interest from healthcare providers to integrate with your connected device, it probably means that one or more of the above pieces is missing.

Your team should have a concrete, secure data strategy and architecture in place that can be leveraged to prove your device can do the following:

  1. Improve patient outcomes (eg. reduce readmissions)
  2. Optimize operational efficiencies (eg. efficiency of staff, reduce procedure time, reduced patient hospital stay)

At the end of the day, hospitals need to see evidence that your connected device presents value and they need to know it’s compliant with privacy and security regulation. If you can provide this, your team is more likely to get further in a buying conversation.

2. “Connecting The Data Is the Most Difficult Part of Integrating My Device”

An explicit interface definition will allow data mapping and transformations to be implemented quickly. The more time-consuming part of deploying an integration is usually business and politics related. One former government official from the 2019 Deloitte Center for Health Solutions radical interoperability research study quoted, “Interoperability is 20 percent technical, 80 percent economic and political.” If your team can prove favorable ROI/savings from deploying an integration, then it makes good economic sense. However, if this can’t be proven, an economic barrier is presented. From a political perspective, aligning stakeholders (IT and security departments who are trying to prioritize projects, physicians who are advocating for competitor devices, insurance stakeholders who pay for treatments) on a decision/strategy can cause project delay.

Additionally, although connecting the necessary data is not technically challenging, it’s difficult to understand the data that is being exchanged and its context. For example, receiving a heart rate measurement from a device tells you what a patient’s heart rate was. However, it doesn’t provide further context into that patient’s overall health and why their heart rate may be abnormal.

Also, a heart rate measurement may hold a different meaning to a cardiologist vs. an oncologist. You’ll need to capture the appropriate context of the data for various users, including why it would be important to them, what it indicates and what other data points it’s associated with.

Lastly, keep in mind that different healthcare institutions will organize and structure data differently (ie. information fields being used in different ways).

3. “Medical Device Integration Is Just About Sharing Data”

The core of medical device integration involves transferring data between your device and customer systems. However, integrating with other systems requires medical device connectivity. Having a connected medical device may impact many things from the clinical workflow of users, to the regulatory requirements you must adhere to, to your overall business model. Understanding these impacts will allow you to develop an overall interoperability strategy that works for all stakeholders.

4. “The EHR Doesn’t Provide an API For the Information I Need”

A common misconception is that EHR’s don’t provide access to the data that connected device vendors need. While most EHR’s don’t expose APIs by default, they typically do have an API to get access to virtually any kind of data – it just needs to be enabled. Gaining access may be as simple as updating the configuration, or may require the EHR vendor to enable the API. Most hospitals will have common API’s already enabled because they’re likely working with other vendors who are using that information. Enabling other APIs may come with a cost, although the 21st Century Cures Act legislation is trying to address this.

5. “My Initial Proof of Concept Integration Can Simply Be Reused For My Other Customers”

We’ve seen this happen too often: a medical device vendor will have begun to prove their device can be successfully integrated with one health system that has agreed to collaborate with them and provide access to their staging data. The vendor will have spent weeks, or months, worth of work (and a chunk of change) to build out this single integration with this one customer. Then, they believe they can reuse the interfaces from this first successful Proof of Concept integration when integrating with other customers.

Unfortunately, medical device integrations are typically customized and teams end up becoming frustrated when they realize their deployment model isn’t scalable. So remember, just because you’ve integrated with one customer’s system, doesn’t mean you have a strategy for integrating with other systems. There’s no way around this customization; every health system is going to operate differently and systems will differ. Knowing this, your team will need to identify who will be responsible for the customization. Is this something that you’ll work into your business model as a new service? Will the health system’s IT team be responsible for managing the customization? Will you leverage a 3rd party integration specialist? Remember: the easier you make it for the customer to integrate, the more inclined they’ll be to buy. At the end of the day, you’ll need to assess what amount of customization ownership makes sense for your organization.

Start Developing Your Medical Device Integration Strategy

There is a lot to consider when mapping out an integration strategy for your medical device. Integrations are nuanced and involve considerable customization with a variety of standards in use in the market. Contrary to popular belief, the integration itself is not very difficult to do, but getting the right integration strategy can determine your business success.

This is where our 15+ years of software development and user experience design in healthcare comes into play. We take pride in our ability to develop strategies and solutions that not only get medical devices connected but do so in a way that enhances the business strategy. Working with us also gives your team access to our Macadamian HealthConnect™ platform which includes a number of pre-built plugins for popular EHRs, making integration that much more efficient. Combining our HealthConnect™ PaaS with our professional services can get you to an MVP of your connected solution in a couple of months to start demonstrating value and capturing real-world evidence from patients and clinicians.

Download our latest guide below if you’d like to learn more about developing a strategy for integrating your medical device with customer health information systems and reach out to us if you could use our expertise in developing integration solutions to achieve interoperability.