Hospitals Lose More Than $8.3B a Year Due to Old Technology: Report

Outdated communication technology frustrates hospitals and causes them to lose billions of dollars per year, a Ponemon report revealed.

Outdated communication technology such as pagers costs hospitals more than $8.3 billion annually due to a loss in productivity and an increase in patient discharge times, a May 7 Ponemon Institute report revealed.

Each U.S. hospital loses close to a million dollars because they continue using obsolete equipment, according to the report.

Imprivata, a company that offers access-management and secure-messaging platforms, sponsored the study, called "The Economic & Productivity Impact of IT Security on Healthcare."

For the report, the Ponemon Institute interviewed 577 health care professionals and discovered that doctors can spend only about 45 percent of their time interacting with patients due to inefficient devices such as pagers.

Inefficiency of pagers caused the loss of productivity for 52 percent of respondents, a lack of WiFi was a time-waster for 39 percent of respondents, 38 percent suffered from inadequacy of email and 36 percent cited the inability to use text messaging, the report found.

"One of the challenges we see with the rollout and adoption of technology in health care is definitely creating a lot of agita in the delivery of care," Omar Hussain, president and CEO of Imprivata, told eWEEK. "One of the focuses that we have is trying to reduce the time [lost] and improve the time that physicians can spend with patients."

Health care lags behind other industries in the latest technology, added Dr. Sean Kelly, Imprivata's chief medical officer.

With the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon becoming increasingly important in the IT world, doctors and clinicians want to use text-messaging, cameras and more up-to-date technology, he said.

The health care industry is balancing a desire for more convenient, up-to-date technology with the security regulations of the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Kelly said.

Smartphones and secure text-messaging could help increase efficiency in hospitals and reduce patient discharge times, which average about 101 minutes, the report stated.

In fact, 65 percent of respondents mentioned secure text-messaging as a way to cut patient discharge time by 50 minutes.

"The most common form of communication in the world today is texting, and yet no physician or doctor can use that today," Hussain said, citing the security issues involved. "The most common form of communication in a hospital is paging. People hate it; it's inefficient. It does not provide the ability to give more information."

When hospitals increase patient discharge times, they lose an average of more than $550,000 in revenue, the report revealed.

The report also showed that hospitals are losing productivity time by trying to comply with HIPAA, Hussain said.

"They're spending more time trying to comply with something rather than provide patient care," he said.

Still, compliance is a must for patient privacy, Hussain noted.

"There's a lot of pushback from physicians and clinicians," Hussain continued. "A lot of them want to do the right thing, but regulations make it very cumbersome for the physicians and clinicians to focus on providing patient care."

Logging on and off of multiple hospital IT systems multiple times a day also consumes productivity time, according to Kelly.

Kelly mentioned how he might see 30 or 40 patients on an eight-hour shift and log on and off a PC at least 200 times.

"And that's just to get on and off the electronic medical record, never mind going to a prescription program or other applications, etc.," he said. A stroke scale or radiology picture archiving and communication system (PACS) would require additional log-ins.