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Study: Pagers, Outdated Communication Tech Costing Hospitals

May 7, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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According to a new study from the Traverse City, Mich.-based Ponemon Institute, collectively, U.S. hospitals are losing $8.3 billion annually due to the use of pagers and outdated communicates technologies. These technologies, the study’s authors say decrease clinician productivity and increase patient discharge time.

Ponemon Institute surveyed 577 healthcare professionals for the study, which was sponsored by the Lexington, Mass.-based security software company, Imprivata. What they found was the average clinician wastes 45 minutes per day as a result of inefficient communication systems. Translated, Ponemon’s researchers found, this costs the average hospital nearly $1 million annually. Furthermore, increased patient discharge times due to these communication failures can cost a hospital more than $550,000 per year in lost revenue.

“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,” stated Larry Ponemon, Ph.D., chairman and founder of the 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.”

Ponemon, who is notable for his organization’s annual healthcare privacy and security report, says smartphones could help solve many of these communication issues. However, he notes, they hospital leaders are hesitant to adopt them because of “challenging regulatory compliance requirements.”

Of those surveyed in the report, more than half say the inefficiency of pagers (52 percent) is the biggest drag in clinician’s time. This is 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). Overall, clinicians say 45 percent of their time is spent with patients, while the remaining 55 percent is spent communicating and collaborating with other clinicians, or using electronic medical records and other clinical IT systems.

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