US/World

$8.3 Billion Wasted In Hospital IT Communication Inefficiencies

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Hospitals waste $8.3 billion on technological inefficiencies in communications alone. Creative Commons / Alex E. Pro

Because most hospitals in the U.S. are stuck using paper records rather than modern electronic patient files, they're also losing a combined $8.3 billion annually.

A report from the Ponemon Institute, which analyzes privacy, data protection, and security policy, says that the large amount of wasted money results in lost productivity and increased hospital stays for patients. The report comes from a survey of 577 healthcare and IT professionals who worked at hospitals that ranged from 100 to 500 in patient beds around the country. According to them, much of the fault is due to HIPAA and outdated communications and computer interface devices.

The study shows that there was a shocking amount of time wasted even waiting for patient medial information, totaling an average of 46 minutes a day. Doctors cited common inefficiencies caused by pagers (59 percent), lack of WiFi access in hospitals (39 percent), email systems that are not customized to medical professionals (38 percent), and reliance on faxmachines to send patient information between departments. These inefficiencies total around $5.1 billion for the entire country, or close to $1 million for each typical hospital.

The additional $3.2 billion in wasted money results from using communication systems that complicate the patient discharge process. Out of the total 102 minutes on average that it takes to discharge a patient, 37 minutes are spent on waiting for hospital staff to respond with the information from systems required for proper discharge.

"If the technology was a little better and less restrictive, that's where the value add would occur," said Larry Ponemon of the Ponemon Institute. "The goal is to maximize face time with patients. I think that could be achieved by having better technology."

There were also many complaints about HIPAA, the set of laws and regulations enacted by the federal government to increase patient privacy. Yet 59 percent of the respondents said that the complexity of HIPAA rules was a major barrier to modernizing the system and improving patient care. Shockingly, the survey found that only 45 percent of a typical workday was spent with patients while the remaining time, 55 percent, was spent communicating and collaborating with other doctors using electronic medical records and other IT systems.

These
These technological failings are wasting time for doctors and patients. (source: Ponemon Institute)

"Overwhelmingly, respondents agreed that the deficient communications tools currently in use decrease productivity and limit the time doctors have to spend with patients," according to the study. "They also recognized the value of implementing smartphones, text messaging and other modern forms of communications, but cited overly restrictive security policies as a primary reason why these technologies are not in use."

With electronic medical records set to be law in the near future, many hospitals need to invest in themselves to make both the doctor and patient experience better, while saving money for the health care system, hospitals, and patients at the same time. 

 

 

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