Getting Patients Home Faster

Becker’s Hospital Review recently reported that the average cost of a single day in a state U.S. hospital is $1,974 per patient. A hospital stay of just five days would hover around nearly $10,000 (on average). That cost adds up nationally: A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, by P. Vermeir et al. stated that “in the USA, hospitals waste over $12.4 billion per year because of communication inefficiencies. More than half of that amount (53 percent) is because of an increase in length of stay.”

Every minute that a patient remains unnecessarily in a hospital bed is costly for the patient and the hospital. While playing the waiting game, patients can become uncomfortable, frustrated, and dissatisfied. All the while, the operational cost to the hospital continues to rise as care providers coordinate care and the patient’s bed remains occupied and unavailable to other patients.

Currently, many hospitals use a myriad of disparate communication platforms that often offer limited capabilities, integrations, and connectivity. Delays and errors that occur while coordinating care for a patient can often be traced back to siloed communication streams and lack of context offered by outdated strategies and technology systems. Since much of the time a patient spends in the hospital is due to delays in communication and coordination of care among clinicians, a logical way to improve the patient experience and reduce cost is to increase communication efficiency. 

Boosting Communication Efficiency

Some hospitals have attempted to solve communication problems by implementing new technologies and workflows. One such technology is secure text messaging, which can provide streamlined, contextual communication to help speed clinician response times. Implementing this technology in clinical workflows can have a profound impact on outcomes such as length of stay.

In fact, a recent study by Mitesh S. Patel, MD, et al. showed that the implementation of secure text messaging reduced length of stay by 14 percent (from 6.0 to 5.4 days on average) at a large regional hospital. Based on the national average, this could save the hospital over $500 per patient. This can also help to increase patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes. This is the kind of impact that implementing secure text messaging alone can have on a hospital, but some hospitals aren’t stopping there—they are looking to implement programs that reach well beyond basic secure text messaging.

Basic secure text messaging provides a platform for clinicians to communicate securely and efficiently by tapping into enterprise directories and using the technology to facilitate closed-loop, two-way conversations. Going beyond these capabilities, enterprise communications platforms leverage secure text messaging and integrations with nurse call systems, critical test result management systems, medical devices, electronic medical records, and other clinical systems to streamline both clinical conversations between providers and patient alerts. These platforms also leverage workflow engines to prioritize the most important messages and alerts.  They intelligently direct messages to on-call groups, and automatically trigger escalations to other devices or people when necessary. All of this ensures that the right care provider receives the appropriate messages.

Reducing Length of Stay: Real Workflow Examples

Let’s look at the differences in the basic vs. enterprise platforms:

  1. Without secure text messaging technology, as a patient waits in a bed, care providers will likely call a contact center operator to send pages to one another and then wait on responses.
  2. With basic secure text messaging, the same care providers can cut out the wait time by sending one another secure messages directly.
  3. With an enterprise communications platform, those same providers can also receive alerts about the patient from ventilators, nurse call systems, lab information systems, electronic medical record and other clinical systems. These alerts can be prioritized along with secure messages about the patient from other care providers.

I am not aware of a study yet that shows the impact of an integrated enterprise communications platform on hospital length of stay. Perhaps if there were, it would reveal that even more unnecessary time could be shaved off the average amount of time a patient must spend in the hospital. Imagine how that would increase patient satisfaction and outcomes, as well as hospital revenue and cost savings. That would certainly be something to celebrate.