November 1, 2013

$8.3 Billion Lost by Healthcare From Poor Communication

In the early days of modern manufacturing, value was only added to a product about 5 percent of the time.  The rest of the time it was sitting on the production line waiting for the next step to add value – a large portion of this waste came from information not being readily available.

If we look at the process a patient goes through when receiving care at a medical center we will find similarities. A 2013 Ponemon Institute survey of 577 U.S. health care professionals found clinicians wasting an average of 46 minutes per day waiting for patient information. The primary reasons included no Wi-Fi access, bans on use of personally owned devices and reliance on email and inefficient pagers.  That adds up to $5.1 billion annually across the health care industry or a productivity loss of $900,000 per year for the typical hospital. Additionally, the study found that hospitals waste $3.2 billion by continuing to rely on these older communications systems as part of the patient discharge process – about a third of the average discharge time of 102 minutes is due to waiting for hospital staff to respond with information necessary for the patient's release.   Overall this is costing U.S. hospitals an estimated $8.3 billion annually in lost productivity and increased patient discharge times.  

This struggle to get the right information at the right time is endemic in every industry.  For healthcare, CHIN’s in the 90s and RHIOs in the 2000s proved that pulling information together from various trading partners is beyond difficult.  HIEs are today’s permutation and they still suffer from scaling one technological and cooperative summit only to find that their efforts offered a better view of the genetically persistent problem – a sustainable business model.
More recently we see video, voice and data systems in the form of telehealth, mHealth, healthcare grade SMS and email, and remote care applications and devices showing good productivity returns from early demonstrations fermented by ACA.  In this environment, all are eager for successful business models that support data exchange efforts beyond enabling legislation and grants. When payers, patients and caregivers have collaborated and shared the cost savings from technology that produces greater throughput, less waste and most appropriate care, great changes have occurred in market perceptions and profitability - the Veterans Administration, Kaiser, Group Health Cooperatives and other provider entities have all done so without any government grants.

I think we are all comfortable with approaching summits of concern for privacy, security and patient consent – we’ve scaled them many times in the past. Yet, much of the discussion centers on trying to sell improved communications like they were selling the information super highway of old - difficult to do when the average provider community only sees, wants or can afford a cow path. 

The old models of the past are very "enterprise" and still have a place.  The social construct of communication that today's healthcare worker use in the form of Facebook walls, SMS, Twitter and others do a better job of offering a process that actually mimics what happens in workflows and their lives - a conversation. 

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