For so many years, the biggest complaint regarding healthcare has ultimately been the cost. While there are jokes abounding that the cost of a single aspirin can run over $100, it really isn’t far from the truth. However, if you stop to think about it, the supply chain that makes an aspirin possible is incredibly long and that’s why the cost is so exorbitant.
Consider the people who interact with the availability of that aspirin and you will see that everyone has their hands in the kitty, from administration right down to maintenance. Maintenance? That’s right! Who is going to pick up and dispose of the wrappings? Certainly not the doctors and nurses! So, you see, something has to give somewhere and technology could very well be the missing link. Here is some food for thought.
Time Spent Gathering Information
A study conducted a few years back by McKinsey Global Institute found that approximately 1/5 of an employee’s work week was spent gathering information. Let that sink in for just a moment. Of a 40 hour work week, that means that 8 of those hours, or one full day, is spent gathering the information they need to do their jobs. From weeding through files to connecting with other departments via phone or email, a full day’s worth of labor is spent getting the information they need to move on to the next step, whatever that may be in the moment.
Now consider how much more time is spent in a hospital setting where a doctor may not have all the patient history at hand necessary to prescribe treatment. Someone takes that patient’s history, logs it into the hospital system, after which the physician reviews it. With government mandated EHRs, Electronic Health Records, all that information should already be digitized and in electronic form ready to be transmitted to the hospital so the doctor can instantly review it. This negates at least one person in the ‘gathering’ chain but most probably more than two. Don’t forget the person at the other end of the line if the hospital needs to communicate with the primary care physician’s office.
Secure Communications to the Rescue
Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, there’s this little (very, very BIG) thing called HIPPA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 to account for. This piece of legislation includes provisions for extreme measures in protecting the confidentiality of patient information. Not only can information not be shared without a release signed by the patient but every effort needs to be made to ensure secure communications when that information is being transmitted, manually or digitally.
With the advent of heightened layers of secure digital hospital communications all that information can now be entered, stored and securely transmitted even on Cloud based servers. It’s amazing just how much time, effort and money technology can save hospitals and physicians just in one area, communications and the transmission of patient data. Now move on from there to the technology that is advancing in diagnostics and treatment and you have just saved each and every patient a bucket load of money that had previously been necessary to pay every staff member in the supply chain. Remember, the results of those diagnostics also need to be transmitted and here you have come full circle back to secure communications!
Whether or not technology will ever bring the cost of treatment down to an acceptable level is yet to be determined but if it keeps advancing at this rate, there is no reason why those massive savings shouldn’t filter down to the end user – the patient. Time will tell, no pun intended.