How Medical Device Interoperability Can Address Clinician Burnout

Male and female clinicians talking and walking up stairs in hospital

Many health workers, driven by a sense of compassion and duty, will push themselves to work long hours–providing care to patients and their loved ones while denying their own needs for food, rest, or physical and emotional care. Perhaps this is one reason why, as US healthcare rebounds from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new epidemic of clinician burnout has arisen.

Clinician burnout isn’t new. But current circumstances, including the pandemic and growing staff shortages, have pushed the healthcare workforce to the brink. The 2022 National Burnout Benchmarking report from the AMA shows that more than half of healthcare workers are experiencing burnout, while 52% reported being under significant stress.

Those numbers reveal that Americans now rely primarily on a healthcare workforce suffering from severe emotional exhaustion, anxiety, depression, low job satisfaction, and moral distress. As many physicians and nurses choose to leave the healthcare profession, growing staff shortages increase work-related stress for those who remain. That these burnout symptoms put American patients at risk is without question. A 2022 meta-analysis of 170 studies found that physician burnout was associated with twice as many patient safety events, reduced provider professionalism, and low levels of patient satisfaction.

A burnout crisis in the US

In May 2022, the US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued an advisory regarding the urgent need to address widespread health worker burnout and resignation. The advisory highlights the harmful consequences for health workers, patients, the healthcare system, the community, and the greater society. It also mentions the high annual cost of turnover for physicians ($6.3 billion) and nurses ($9 billion).

Among other contributing factors, Surgeon General Murthy cites:

“...a rapidly changing healthcare environment, where advances in health information and biomedical technology are accompanied by burdensome administrative tasks, requirements, and a complex array of information to synthesize.”

The Surgeon General’s advisory calls for stronger data integration across systems and health sectors, with a priority on improving the integration of information from all clinical care team members, the patient, and caregivers.

How medical device interoperability helps burnout

While multi-sector interoperability might take some time, improving the interoperability of medical devices itself can improve data integration and combat burnout. Device interoperability significantly reduces EHR interactions for physicians, which this 2019 study found increased the risk for burnout. It also minimizes the steps for clinicians using medical equipment in the field, a cause of cognitive fatigue. And bi-directional EHR interoperability can simplify the operation of devices like smart infusion pumps, making the user interface less arduous and preventing life-threatening medication errors and other user-related issues.

Benefits of medical device interoperability include:

  • Easy retrieval of imported data
  • Provides decision-making assistance at the point-of-care
  • Streamlines clinical workflows
  • Automates mundane tasks
  • Makes data easily accessible to clinicians and care teams

A nurses' survey on interoperability showed that 93% of respondents strongly agreed that medical devices should share data automatically. Less time dealing with devices would mean more hands-on time with patients, according to 91%, while 74% feel strongly that coordinating data collected by medical devices is a burden.

How hospitals can improve medical device interoperability

According to the Center for Medical Interoperability, 90% of hospitals use at least six different types of devices that could be integrated, yet only one in three hospitals fully integrates their devices. To improve interoperability, hospitals and health systems must first establish that doing so is a priority.

Tips for improving medical device integration:

  • Assign a team of BMETs and IT staff to oversee the project
  • Identify integration-capable devices that aren’t yet connected
  • Identify additional devices, software platforms, hardware, and other components needed
  • Make capital budget plans for the cost of integration
  • Communicate clearly with vendors that they’ll need to align with this goal going forward
  • Remember that clinical staff will require training on newly integrated devices, which requires both funds and time

Be sure to research and discuss cybersecurity with the tech team assigned to the project. Despite the prevalence of healthcare cyberattacks, the benefits for patients, providers, and hospitals far outweigh the risks. However, it’s critical to take steps to protect connected medical devices against cyberattacks.

Medical device interoperability and value-based care

Beyond the burnout issue, enhancing medical device interoperability makes good sense. As value-based healthcare moves to center stage, an open data exchange becomes the foundation for quality patient care. Without access to a patient's full medical history, there’s no “whole-person” care. Furthermore, applying AI to integrated data from telemetry monitors, infusion pumps, and similar devices can yield actionable insights that offer personalized decision support for providers.

That kind of insight, patient-centered practices, and safe, healthy clinicians will take clinical outcomes to new heights.

Elite Biomedical Solutions is a proud USA manufacturer of OEM-level quality infusion pump and telemetry system replacement parts. Contact us to learn about our products, repair support, or BMET training programs.

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