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Medical Device Interoperability

From acute care clinical settings, to vital-sign monitoring, and devices that make telemedicine an accurate diagnostic and treatment discipline, medical devices are playing an ever-increasing role to transform healthcare delivery.  These devices have the ability to capture critical medical data, available (perhaps) multiple times per second, on a per-patient basis.  However, for the most part, they are unable to communicate with one another and offer almost no plug-and-play interoperability. Lack of reference implementations for existing device interface standards and unanswered questions regarding the safety and performance of networked systems-of-systems are among the challenges to achieve such interoperability. A standard interoperable framework will allow novel clinical solutions to be safely and efficiently incorporated.

Interoperability will enable:

  • Standards-based connectivity of medical devices to IT networks and streamlining equipment management and deployment.
  • New medical sensors and actuators (manufactured by small vendors) that can be integrated with the existing infrastructure as they become available.
  • Easily deployable protocols & treatment solutions that are driven by what the healthcare providers need instead of what a technology manufacturer can supply.
  • Fewer transcription errors and a richer set of information with which clinicians can manage their patients.
  • Synchronization, safety interlocks and closed-loop device control for medical devices.  

NIST researchers (in collaboration with experts from other agencies, industry and academia) are currently working on efforts that promote standard-based medical device interoperability and communication.  Additional information on each effort can be found below.