Old communications technologies cost hospitals $8.3 billion per year

If employees at your hospital are using pagers or other outdated communications technologies, they're guilty of wasting both time and money--a lot of the latter, according to a new report published by the Ponemon Institute.

As a whole, use of older communications technologies costs U.S. hospitals $8.3 billion per year, as it causes productivity to decrease and patient discharge times to increase. For the report, Ponemon surveyed 577 healthcare professionals in March and April at organizations ranging from less than 100 beds to more than 500 beds.

The healthcare industry, overall, lags behind other industries with regard to use of newer communications technologies, according to the report's authors. Perceived security and compliance risks associated with newer technologies like smartphones and tablets, they pointed out, are a large reason for that lag.

"[D]octors 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," Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, said in a statement. "Outmoded technologies also contribute significantly to increased patient discharge times, which average about 101 minutes."

The report's authors determined that, on average, clinicians waste more than 45 minutes per day using older communications tools, with pager inefficiency cited by most respondents as the biggest time waster. In turn, that wasted time costs each U.S. hospital close to $1 million annually.

"Based on their responses, the IT practitioners and clinicians are aware of the difficult problems they must deal with," the report's authors wrote. "However, the inability to identify and implement solutions to these problems is likely to be costly."

Despite Ponemon's call for the need to update communications technologies, research published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in March determined that interruptions from mobile devices are a problem for doctors in hospitals, and that a solution to reduce such interruptions is desperately needed.

To learn more:
- here's the Ponemon report (.pdf)
- read the accompanying announcement