Electronic Health Records

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Inefficient health IT costs hospitals $8.3 billion a year

By Jennifer Bresnick

New research by the Ponemon Institute shows that outdated and inefficient health IT and communications tools are costing hospitals money and wasting time for patients and physicians alike.  Poor WiFi connectivity, a reliance on old-fashioned pagers and a lack of texting, and the slow exchange of emails add up to more than $8.3 billion a year for hospitals, or around $900,000 per facility.

The survey of 577 physicians showed that the average clinician loses 45 minutes a day trying to communicate with peers, with 52% citing pagers as their greatest source of frustration.  Over a third said they were not allowed to use text messages, and a majority of them blame HIPAA regulations that restrict the use of cell phones and other personal mobile devices.  Two-thirds of participants believe that secure texting could cut patient discharge time by 50 minutes.  With the average discharge taking more than an hour and a half, that adds up to a lot more open beds for needy patients – and more than $3 billion in additional revenue annually for hospitals.

“Our research uncovered several sobering realities about the negative impacts of antiquated communication technologies and security policies on a hospital’s bottom line as well as on doctor productivity,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. “For instance, doctors say they spend only about 45 percent of their time actually interfacing with patients, in large part because they must deal with inefficient communications technologies such as pagers. This time could be cut significantly through the use of smartphones and secure text messaging, but these technologies remain, for the most part, unused in hospitals because of the restrictive nature of security policies and challenging regulatory compliance requirements.”

“The research highlights the need for updated communication technologies across the healthcare industry to improve efficiency and allow doctors and other caregivers to spend more of their time focused on the delivery of quality patient care,” said Omar Hussain, president and CEO of Imprivata, which sponsored the study. “While healthcare organizations seem to recognize the challenges, there is still a significant amount of work to be done, especially in replacing pagers and other inefficient communication systems with more modern technologies such as smartphones and secure text messaging.”

 

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