Keeping Pace with Healthcare Technology without Breaking the Bank

Posted by Frank Grant, President & CEO on May 30, 2015

We’ve all done it: bought the latest smartphone or computer, only to have something better released the next month. Making this mistake with a smartphone may cost a few hundred bucks and some minor frustrations while you wait for the two-year commitment to run out. But when that same mistake is made with healthcare technology, it can cost significantly more and require a lot longer commitment.

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The "shiny object" effect has been at play in healthcare for many years. Hospital executives have rushed to purchase all sorts of new innovations in the name of improving patient safety and outcomes. Is it any wonder that the buzz word of 2015 is interoperability?

Don't get me wrong - there's a lot of great healthcare technology out there with the potential to make a huge difference in patient care. Refusing to purchase any equipment or delaying the purchase until things are sorted out isn’t really the answer. Where would healthcare be today without the latest advances in technology? The surgical marvels of less-invasive procedures, the convenience of electronic medical records, the continuum of care offered by in-home devices would not be commonplace.

Without a doubt, it is challenging to keep up with the latest innovations. We struggle with that in our personal lives and especially in healthcare. But it's hardly a new problem. Research published as far back as 2006 found hospitals “struggling to keep pace with purchasing decisions for emerging technologies:"

“New technologies have become more complex and challenging to evaluate, and in the case of disruptive technologies—those that change existing business models or work processes—estimating the impact on clinical programs, operating costs, and workforce and facility needs is particularly difficult. These problems are exacerbated by new demands for improvement in hospital safety and quality and for performance reporting, requiring further investments in information technology (IT) and in the clinical transformation of care processes.”

Again, that was in 2006—the same year that Facebook moved beyond a college-only social media tool and months before the first iPhone was introduced. Consider how the pace of technology has changed in the nine years since. People carry small computers in their pockets. Patients research their symptoms before they make the first appointment. We have more information than ever before—and are less tolerant of waiting for anything. We rely on technology to make our lives better and more efficient.

So who can blame hospitals for investing in new innovations that promise to make patients safer and more satisfied and staff more organized and efficient? Technology that streamlines care and improves patient outcomes is good. Right?

The problem isn't necessarily the technology itself. The problem is that we now have too much of a good thing. The patchwork of technologies created by multiple purchases over a number of years is not only complex and frustrating to use. It is expensive to maintain. Take nurse call, for instance. Hospitals purchase the latest, greatest system, but then they have to strap on several middleware products just to get the full functionality and data they need. Wouldn't it be more cost effective and efficient to have a unified system with all the necessary tools baked in to protect patients and manage their care?

A 2014 study of ACOs by Premier healthcare alliance identified interoperability as a significant barrier to reaching the ACO's full potential. In every other industry technology is lowering costs. Why should healthcare be any different? An article by economist Jonathan Skinner in the MIT Technology Review explored that question a couple of years ago and found it to be the continued "development and diffusion of new technologies." Skinner says, "it’s not just 'technology' that is driving our rising health-care costs; it’s the type of technology that is developed, adopted, and then diffused through hospitals and doctor’s offices." Skinner's article focused on technology-driven patient treatments, but the message applies across the board. The ROI of technology must be considered at the point of purchase.

The answer seems clear. As financial pressures continue to mount, hospitals don’t just need more technology. They need the right technology – technology that improves patient experience and outcomes, is cost-effective AND built for the future. Technology that brings important features and functionality together in one unified system makes a lot of sense. Imagine how happy patients would be if technology could ensure every request they made would be addressed without repeatedly pressing the nurse call button? Imagine how much money hospitals could save using technology that is designed to encourage rounding and to help prevent falls and pressure ulcers? Or how great would it be if CNOs had access to a powerful reporting portal to make evidence-based decisions that prevent staff burnout and create greater efficiencies in workflow? And what if nurse call, advanced messaging and alarm management could be delivered in a single affordable system…and that system was guaranteed not to be obsolete in a few years time?

We’re thrilled to be participating in the AAMI conference next weekend where we will be demonstrating the tremendous cost savings and improved patient safety and outcomes Amplion Alert technology provides. If you are attending, please stop by booth 324 to see how an investment in our revolutionary patient care assurance platform creates safer, more satisfied patients at the lowest cost per bed in the industry.

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Topics: Blog, Real-Time Technology

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