MX Magazine was kind enough to ask me to write a story about the current state of medical device connectivity. This isn't a comprehensive market analysis, but a discussion of market trends, technology, and the current state of connectivity. Numerous examples of new products are included in the review. The following product categories are discussed in detail:

  • Imaging information and PACS
  • Integration and Interoperable Systems (wireless medical devices)
  • Wearable and Implantable IT (wireless sensors and gateways)
  • Alternate-Site and Home-Use IT (remote monitoring)

Steve and Lori at MX did a great job getting photos and descriptions of some of the latest connectivity features and devices - some of which haven't gotten much press. This excerpt from the conclusion touches on many of the themes of the story:

EHR adoption is increasingly driving medical device connectivity.
This integration will create opportunities for third-party vendors to
provide solutions for the huge installed base of medical devices that
have only a serial port for data output. How these new entrants will
leverage their footholds in the market remains to be seen.

Reacting to the nursing shortage and continued reimbursement
pressures in the United States will require significant productivity
gains at the point of care. At the same time, patient safety and
patient-flow bottlenecks are driving point-of-care connectivity and
work flow automation. Increased patient acuity outside of critical-care
areas is driving demand for more-pervasive and distributed
surveillance. In response, basic clinical market requirements are

Increased IT involvement will continue to influence the
purchase of new medical devices. Besides technology, perhaps the
biggest challenge facing medical device vendors will be related to
sales. Connectivity changes the selling process, creates new decision
makers, and even affects sales administration. The days of simply
"selling the box" are fading.

As I'm fond of saying, read the whole thing. And if you're struggling with connectivity - and want to minimize risk and costs, and maximize your investment - let me know. I can help.

UPDATE: Reader Jim Maughan offers some comments about connectivity in diagnostic imaging (both radiology and cardiology):

From the RIS and PACS side, there are a
few other items that you may want to add to your connectivity thoughts. There
are three applications/technology elements that come to mind that are
“integrated” to various degrees into RIS, and PACS systems. They are
Voice/Speech Recognition Systems, Document Imaging/Management Systems, and
Third Party Image Rendering Systems (MIP/MPR, 3D). All of these systems work best when they
are integrated into the workflow of the users and are context based. Context
based meaning that the third party application can be launched or used by the
user without having to go to the third party vendor’s application, log on, open
it, find the patient that you were working on and start a new session. The
application simply opens and all of the relevant patient information is there.
There are many vendors who can provide Voice, Document, and Rendering apps. In
order for all of these systems to connect and work fairly seamlessly some kind
of API needs to worked out and supported by the various players. This is
another level of connectivity that must be considered purchasing and supporting
systems. It is beyond HL7 or DICOM interfacing. The requirement is that all of
these systems, even though provided by different vendors, must fit intimately
into the user workflow and interoperate as seamlessly as possible.

And let’s not forget that since these systems
are from different vendors that when software upgrades occur, the changes made
to one of the systems may negatively impact that performance of another. And
hence the customer must consider the requirement of pre-testing the software
upgrade prior to moving into production environments. So the connectivity is a
living breathing dynamic thing.

As Jim says, "some more grist for the connectivity mill."