The role of medical device integration technology in providing quality care to patients has ensured the regularization and implementation of medical devices plug and play architecture in hospitals. Medical devices plug and play interoperability not only automates the process of data transmission from various medical devices to patient’s EMR, but also reduces any manual data entry errors by nurses or physicians. In fact, the FDA has taken notice of the technology and has already published their final rule for medical device data systems. According to a survey done by QMED, connected medical devices not only saves 4-36 minutes of data entry time by a nurse, it also prevents 24 data errors daily. Because hospitals have hundreds of nurses and physicians, the use of this technology will not only save tons of time but also improve the efficiency of health care drastically.

According to new regulations, hospitals must employ medical devices integration to meet the new requirements. The correct mapping of data from different medical devices to the respective patient is one area of concern that hospitals should consider. Because there are numerous devices in a hospital with each patient requiring a set of devices alongside his bed, it becomes extremely important that the whole process is automated in a way where data from a particular patient reflects in only the patient’s EMR. Also, this data should not only reflect in the main database of the hospital but should also be visible in the systems of all the concerned departments.

How Can We Ensure Positive Patient Association?

There is a need for the establishment of patient context in the form of unique patient IDs, so the devices can know where to transmit the data. Confirmed patient IDs need to be used by these devices to send regular feeds and alarms to the central server and integrate the information with other applications too. Here are some of the ways of ensuring positive patient association.

•    Barcode association: The nurses are provided with a PDA based mobile device that provides them the information about the workflow they need to follow for recording the information about a patient. After the process of recording, it becomes essential that this data is mapped to the correct patient.  Each patient is provided with a wristband that has a unique barcode attached to it. The nurses simply have to scan this wristband and the corresponding device information gets tagged to the right patient.
•    Application based: Here, the physicians use an application to perform this step. Although it does not automate the data collection procedure completely, it certainly prevents hassles arising from manual entries. The application lists all the devices and patients in list form. The physician has a choice of mapping a particular device to a particular patient ID to begin the recording process. This option, however, becomes infeasible when there are a large number of devices in a hospital.
•    Real-time association: This technology tracks both devices and patients, regardless of which corner of the hospital they are located in. Real-time association uses auto identification technologies that make use of RFID tags to track patients and devices. Although the current crop of RFID tags are considered sufficient for this purpose, some of the previous tags are unable to track the patient location defined to a particular bed or room number.

As more hospitals begin to acknowledge the use of medical devices integration technology, it becomes important that positive patient association methods are also evaluated satisfactorily. Each method should be studied for its impact and efficiency. Unique patient ID implementations across hospitals need to be studied by an association process to prevent any identity overlap.