The Do-It-Yourself Disaster

October 10, 2012 by InTouch Health

Some hospitals mistakenly think that you can create a telemedicine program as easily as someone can build a patio by going to Home Depot.

Good luck with that.

These healthcare do-it-yourselfers make two big mistakes from the get-go: they underestimate the complexity of the job and they overestimate what their IT departments can deliver.

For starters, any hospital that tries to jimmy-rig its own telemedicine system is automatically considered a manufacturer by the FDA. In its 2011 MDDS ruling, the FDA made it crystal-clear that devices that perform active patient monitoring are Class II devices requiring far greater regulatory scrutiny. It’s very costly and time-consuming to get FDA clearance – and why on earth would a hospital want to assume that kind of liability exposure?

Secondly, many hospital IT folks think that creating a telemedicine network is as simple as connecting two tin cans. They fail to realize that telemedicine technology is vastly different from videoconferencing. In telemedicine, a hospital must manage outside networks where there’s no on-call IT person. And the endpoints aren’t static, like in a boardroom-to-boardroom video conference.  But that doesn’t stop many overconfident hospital IT people from biting off more than they can chew.

Starting up a telemedicine program is far more complicated than most hospitals ever expect.

When hospitals try do-it-yourself telemedicine, their IT staff often gets so befuddled by technical issues that clinical workflow becomes an afterthought – and the end result is a system that clinicians hate to use.

We’ve all had neighbors who thought they could build a deck or patio worthy of Town & Country magazine – only to wind up with something that looks like a bomb site. That’s why we urge hospitals to avoid the temptation of do-it-yourself telemedicine. Let the prosdo it.