Communications Woes Costing Hospitals Big Bucks

With advances in technology, you might expect the health care system to run like a well-oiled machine. However, a new report by the Ponemon Institute finds that hospitals suffer from the same telecommunications woes that hit other businesses hard.

The biggest culprit appears to the pager, which still remains popular within the industry. But administrators may want to take a second look at the device – the study suggests lost productivity associated with pagers costs more than $8.3 billion each year, a significant hit to the bottom line.

Along with decreased productivity, it is thought use of the devices increases patient discharge times. Professionals surveyed for the study indicate about 45 minutes per day is lost fiddling with faulty devices.

“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, in a press release.

“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. 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.”

It’s not just pagers slowing doctors, nurses and caregivers down. They cite the lack of Wi-Fi, inadequate email and inability to text message as having a negative impact on their work days. In fact, 65 percent of respondents suggest that being able to text message could cut down discharge time by 50 minutes.