The Inefficiency in American Hospitals


Lost productivity and unnecessary inpatient treatment cost American hospitals approximately $8.3 billion each year, according to a 2016 study by the Ponemon Institute. The good news is that the adoption of new technologies can lead to swift and significant savings for hospitals and improvements in patient care.

The Ponemon study found that clinicians spend on average 46 minutes each day waiting for patient data, with patient discharges taking about one and a half hours. This protracted discharge process accounts for an annual revenue loss of $3.2 billion.

The study also found that inadequate communications systems are causing doctors to spend only 45% of their time with patients. WiFi was cited as a cause of wasted time by 52% of respondents in the study, and 38% said ineffective email systems are to blame.

Interestingly, 65% of respondents said that the ability to use text messaging would likely reduce discharge times.

A smarter and safer way to manage patient records

All of these findings point towards the need for more efficient communications strategies and systems. Another solution is to use electronic medical records—a technology that received $19 billion of implementation funding as part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in 2009.

Electronic medical records remove the need for much of the time-consuming communication between clinicians—an especially helpful development given that American patients are exposed to an average of 18.7 doctors during their lives.

By creating a secure, centralized source of patient information, it’s possible to speed up discharge processes, improve diagnoses (based on more accurate data) and even avoid some of the 200,000 preventable deaths in American hospitals each year.

According to a 2015 study by the National Centre for Health Statistics, 74% of physicians reported enhanced overall patient care within 30 days of adopting an electronic records management system. And 29% ordered fewer tests due to the increased availability of results from previous tests.

Moreover, a 2014 study from the American Journal of Managed Care found that the combined benefits of electronic health records enable hospitals to spend up to 10% less on each patient.

Short-term gains, long-term improvements

It’s encouraging to know that the adoption of new technologies, such as electronic health records, rapidly improves patient outcomes. Better yet, there’s clear evidence that the benefits are sustained over time, making electronic records management a cost-effective technology that quickly pays for itself. It also creates a safer hospital environment in which doctors can do what’s most important—spend time with their patients.

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