Viewpoint: Why it's time for hospitals to put IT vendors under pressure

Hospitals must harness their purchasing power to push health IT vendors to embrace interoperability standards, three researchers from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University wrote in an op-ed for Harvard Business Review.

Although hospitals often boast advanced equipment and IT systems, many of these devices can't exchange data with one another. "For years, hospitals have invested in sophisticated devices and IT systems that, on their own, can be awe-inspiring," the authors wrote. "Yet these technologies rarely share data, let alone leverage it to support better clinical care."

IT vendors and device makers haven't embraced interoperability, and the healthcare industry as a whole has been slow to adopt data-sharing standards, the authors explained. Patient heart rate, blood oxygen levels, blood pressure and breathing rate monitors often don't link with EHRs, compelling clinicians to spend additional time manually inputting data and conducting calculations.

The authors suggested hospitals only purchase hardware and software that work with one another to support patient care alongside established interoperability standards, rather than collecting equipment piecemeal, based on price. They also recommended hospitals create group purchasing organizations, in which multiple facilities band together to agree on functional requirements for the products they use.

"When health systems insist on interoperable technologies, the market will respond," the authors wrote.

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