Study: Swapping pagers for texting could be a huge hospital cost saver

Secure text messaging could save the average U.S. hospital $358,598 a year in time savings, more than half the $1.75 million lost due to inefficient communications in three clinical workflows, reveals a new report conducted by Ponemon Institute.

The time savings would be gained by eliminating pagers and streamlining patient admitting processes, emergency response team efforts and patient transfer workflows, according to the report. Inefficient communications in the three workflows, industry wide, costs $11 billion annually.

"The research reveals that providers believe there are more effective methods of communication that can improve patient care and reduce costs," Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, said in an announcement.

Pagers remain a stalwart hospital technology, despite the fact it's an interruption-driven process, noted an industry analyst.

"Paging is time consuming and error prone, and it takes clinicians away from their patients," Lynne Dunbrack, research vice president for IDC Health Insights, said in the announcement. "Secure text messaging can address these challenges by pushing communications, alerts and notifications to their mobile devices wherever they are."

Healthcare institutions nationwide are striving to boost communications and eliminate inefficiencies using mHealth tools. A New Jersey medical center has tapped a smartphone application to improve communications and gain greater efficiencies in patient care and treatment time as staff was losing about 15 percent of their daily work shift to time spent trying to reach physicians and 24-hour delays between a consult request and surgeon notification of the request. What's more, a Harvard Innovation Lab startup developed an app featuring a messaging function that lets staff send and share HIPAA-compliant messages regarding patients.

Additionally, a large homecare agency is using tablets and gaining greater efficiency by clinicians to better communications and teamwork by mobile caregivers.

According to the 400-plus hospitals polled in the Ponemon study, approximately 35 minutes each day are wasted when conducting patient care,19 minutes are wasted completing documentation and 24 minutes are wasted in communicating and consulting with colleagues. In addition, 13 minutes are wasted when prescribing and administering medications.

Respondents said they believe use of secure text messaging could increase productivity, with the study estimating that it could help reclaim about half of that wasted time. That would translate to a potential savings of $23 billion annually across the industry.

For more information:
- read the announcement
- download the report