Health Care and Technology

Hospitals lose $8.3B a year on outdated communication technology

May 14, 2013
| By Pete Daly |
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Outdated pagers fingered as health care cost boosters
With more than 2 million users and 900 health care customers, Imprivata is the No. 1 provider of secure access and collaboration solutions for health care. Photo via fb.com

A study done by the Ponemon Institute in Traverse City suggests that the use of pagers and other outdated communication technologies decreases health care professionals’ productivity and increases the amount of time it takes to discharge a patient — collectively costing U.S. hospitals more than $8.3 billion annually.

Ponemon's survey of 577 health care professionals reveals that doctors, nurses and other caregivers waste more than 45 minutes per day as a result of inefficient communication systems, costing the average U.S. hospital nearly $1 million annually.

In addition, similar communications deficiencies increase patient discharge times, costing the average hospital more than $550,000 per year in lost revenue.

The Ponemon Institute estimates that these findings translate into an industry-wide loss of more than $8.3 billion annually.

Ponemon's study was commissioned by Imprivata, a provider of health care IT security solutions

“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 Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of 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.

"Outmoded technologies also contribute significantly to increased patient discharge times, which average about 101 minutes," he said. "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.”

Titled “The Economic & Productivity Impact of IT Security on Healthcare,” the Ponemon report is focused on the economic impact and productivity inefficiencies created by the transition from paper-based to electronic medical records in health care.

While electronic records are designed to improve efficiency and enhance patient care, it also has the potential to introduce risk, so IT departments must ensure that these new systems meet security and regulatory compliance requirements to keep private information protected, according to the news release.

The primary reason for wasted time is the inefficiency of pagers (as cited by 52 percent of survey respondents), followed by the lack of wi-fi availability (39 percent), the inadequacy of email (38 percent) and the inability to use text messaging (36 percent).

Sixty-five percent of survey respondents believe that secure text messaging can cut discharge time by 50 minutes, which the Ponemon Institute estimates could generate more than $3.1 billion in revenue per year across the health care industry.

Fifty-one percent of survey respondents say HIPPA compliance requirements can be a barrier to providing effective patient care.

Specifically, HIPAA reduces time available for patient care (according to 85 percent of respondents), makes access to electronic patient information difficult (79 percent), restricts the use of electronic communications (56 percent) and restricts the use of personal mobile devices (54 percent).

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