Healthcare News & Insights

Are hospitals really stuck in the ‘digital dark ages’?

Are U.S. physicians and hospitals in the “digital dark ages” when it comes to using mobile devices and Internet services to deliver patient care? 151907743

According to a Ponemon Institute survey, the answer is a resounding yes. Not to mention the fact that due to this, hospitals are absorbing around $8.3 billion in lost productivity and increased patient discharge times, reported Byron Acohido in CyberTruth, USA Today.

What’s the hold up?

It’s not like hospitals don’t have access to the latest mobile devices and Internet services, so what’s holding them back?

Answer: The fear of steep fines for violating HIPAA security and privacy rules.

To keep from violating patient privacy in any way, hospital administrators tend to rely on inefficient pagers, no access to Wi-Fi and deficient email.

Also, many facilities ban the use of personally owned devices. According to the study, that adds up to a whopping $900,000 per year productivity loss for the average hospital. For the healthcare industry as a whole, it totals $5.1 billion annually. And with reimbursement not being anywhere near what it used to be, that’s a lot of money to be left on the table — especially, when faster forms of communication exist and have been put to use by other industries.

Sticking with old outdated technology doesn’t seem to make sense when you look at the fact that on average, 37 minutes of a 102-minute discharge process is spent waiting for hospital staff to respond with information needed for a patient’s release.

Simple fix helps one hospital

South Carolina’s Beaufort Memorial hospital, which has 197 beds and a staff of 1,300, including 150 physicians, found a simple solution to their technology problems.

What was it?

A web application that encrypts messages and stores them in an archive that can be audited.

The application, which can be downloaded from the Apple Store, allows for a secure texting system that doctors and nurses can use to text each other about patient care on their own personal iPhones.

In addition, Beaufort replaced its in-house network that required doctors to remember multiple logons to access records in different departments. Now, the hospital uses a virtual desktop that requires a single log in on any device.

Nothing new

This isn’t new technology. The manufacturing and banking industries have been using it for years. The hospital industry, however, has been extremely cautious about embracing such technology. Hopefully, that will soon be a thing of the past.

Reason: Under the “Meaningful Use” federal program, doctors can get reimbursed for demonstrating increased adoption and use of electronic medical records.

This type of change, however, doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s slowly happening across the country.

“Meaningful use is forcing the health industry to adopt new technologies to make more patient information available in real time and improve communications,” said Omar Hussain, CEO of Imprivata, a tech security firm that sponsored the study.

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