Interoperability still a major barrier to EMM implementations

The cost and complexity of interoperability remains a significant barrier to the deployment of electronic medications management (EMM) systems in Australian hospitals, with change management and clinician adoption also ranking highly.

In a survey carried out by acute care software vendor InterSystems of attendees at the Fourth Annual eMedication Management Conference in Sydney in March, all respondents expected the deployment of EMM to increase patient safety but 68 per cent cited the complexity or cost of interoperability as a significant barrier.

The figures mirror a similar survey carried out by InterSystems at the same conference last year. Like last year's respondents, this year's said any new EMM system would have to interoperate with between five and 20 other systems, with an average of 10.

This year's survey involved staff from 13 public hospitals, five private hospitals and two government healthcare organisations. All organisations surveyed had deployed, were deploying or were planning to deploy an EMM system.

Asked which features of an EMM system were most beneficial, 55 per cent cited interaction checking, such as drug/drug and drug/allergy interactions. Another 50 per cent said accurate current medication lists, 45 per cent cited convenient access to contextually relevant drug information, and 35 per cent said dosage alerts, among other features.

While 55 per cent cited interoperability as an area requiring improvement from EMM vendors, all agreed it was time to introduce standards for clinical decision support alerts in EMM systems to avoid alert fatigue.

They also wanted improvement from vendors in the breadth of functionality available, improvements to “clunky” decision support and a focus on the ability to support each organisation's workflow.

Amongst clinicians, doctors were the most challenging stakeholders when it comes to gaining support for EMM implementations, according to 80 per cent of respondents, with 45 per cent also citing nurses and 20 per cent citing pharmacists. Some also pointed to difficulties with hospital executives.

According to InterSystems, there are three main strategies to help healthcare organisations minimise the complexity or cost of interoperability with other clinical systems.

“One is to standardise on a unified healthcare information system offering a broad range of clinical functionality including EMM,” an InterSystems spokesperson said.

“Another is to choose an EMM system with advanced integration capabilities to ease the task and reduce the cost of interoperability. The third strategy is to adopt a health informatics platform across your organisation to enable strategic interoperability.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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