Information Bottlenecks: The High Cost of Silos in Healthcare

Inefficient communication and the resulting unnecessary delays cost the U.S. healthcare market an estimated $11 billion annually, according to a report published by the Ponemon Institute in June titled, The Imprivata Report on the Economic Impact of Inefficient Communications in Healthcare.

The timely, effective delivery of care hinges on the ability of a wide range of individuals – referring clinics, physicians, nurses, admitting staff, transporters, and housekeepers, to name a few – to communicate and coordinate in real time.

The Ponemon Institute report surveyed more than 400 U.S. healthcare providers on their typical communication processes and procedures around patient admissions, patient transfers, and coordinating emergency response teams.

“Respondents overwhelmingly agree that significant time is wasted during each workflow,” according to the report, “primarily because of the inefficiency of pagers and the lack of adoption of secure text messaging — which has an estimated annual economic impact of about $1.75 million per U.S. hospital and more than $11 billion industry-wide.”

Due to inefficient communication processes, the Ponemon Institute report found that U.S. hospitals waste, on average:

  • 33 minutes each time they admit a patient (65% of the total time to complete the process)
  • 35 minutes each time they transfer a patient (63% of the total time to complete the process)
  • 40 minutes each time they coordinate an emergency response team (43% of the total time to complete the process)

Communication silos are standard procedure in healthcare, regardless of issues with ineffective technology; specialists focus on their unique areas of responsibility, largely unaware of the activities of their counterparts throughout the hospital.

The problem with this all-too-common approach, according to Jeff Boss, Contributor to Forbes.com, in an article published Tuesday entitled The Bare Truth About Hospitals, And Why It’s Time For A Revolution, is that hospital departments, or silos, are often structured in such a way as to specifically restrict information exchange.

“Employees at the bottom of the pyramid operate with the least bit of context because their focus is in their own silos and on their own functions or specialties,” Boss explains. “But, without critical information, their decision-making power—and therefore abilities to act—is limited.”

“Knowledge sharing is what empowers people to make accurate and timely decisions because the information is shared across silos,” according to Boss. “When information is openly shared, the metaphorical ‘left hand’ knows what the ‘right hand’ is doing and there is no obscurity of purpose, no questions as to who is doing what—or why—and no redundancy of efforts.”

By placing information at the center of the organization—both with effective, real-time technology tools and in terms of operational structure— as opposed to restricting access to a small executive group with limited dissemination, hospitals are able to adapt and respond to changing circumstances more quickly.

“Decision-making power—and therefore the ability to act—must be at all levels if you want to stay relevant in today’s changing landscape,” Boss concludes. “The flow of information today is too fast and too dynamic for anything less.”

Breaking down communication silos and empowering hospital team members at all points in the continuum of care with the same access to accurate, real-time information leads to greater efficiency, more engaged team members, improved patient safety and quality of care, higher levels of patient satisfaction, and a reduction in unnecessary down-time and delays.

Cloud-based tools like BedWatch Bed Control, BedWatch Transport Control, and BedWatch Admit Control (coming October 2014), effectively break down department silos and open up lines of communication across all departments associated with patient throughput, from admissions to the Emergency Department, to nursing, patient transport, and housekeeping.

Comprehensive, time-and-date-stamped data for every patient and every point in the throughput process is readily available in real-time to all BedWatch users, and instant notifications and communication tools ensure that all hospital staff have access to the most up-to-date information as it happens. All data contained within BedWatch is encrypted both in-flight and at-rest, and is never stored on a device (iPod, tablet, smart phone, etc.)—instead it’s accessed through a highly-secure website, exceeding HIPAA’s current security standards.

To learn more about how BedWatch helps hospitals improve operational efficiency, quality of care, team member engagement, and the patient experience, all while reducing costs and unnecessary waste, please contact us for more information or to schedule a live demo for your hospital.

Download the full report, The Imprivata Report on the Economic Impact of Inefficient Communications in Healthcare, and learn more at the Ponemon Institute website, www.ponemon.org.  

Read the full article, The Bare Truth About Hospitals, And Why It’s Time For A Revolution, on Forbes.com.

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BedWatch Features Update: Focus on Patient Satisfaction | July 23, 2014 BedWatch Features Update: Maintenance Notifications | August 6, 2014