Wednesday, April 22, 2009

3 Burning Issues for Hospitals Today

This recession has had quite an impact on hospitals, causing 45% of hospitals to postpone capital projects and 13% to cease any expansion in process, as an American Hospital Association report revealed. But despite the new challenges posed by financial crisis for the medical industry, hospitals have their own health care delivery issues to tackle.

Many hospitals have been purchasing refurbished hospital furniture such as hospital chairs or beds to cut costs. However, in addition, addressing the following issues can lead to long term cost-savings.

1. Hospital Deaths due to Medical Errors

Preventable medical errors caused an average of 195,000 individuals to lose their lives in the USA. This was the finding of a HealthGrades study that assessed 37 million patient records for the years 2000, 2001 and 2002. The associated health care cost of these medical errors is estimated to be over $6 billion per year. Following the study, analysts suggested that just by improving upon four key areas, namely, failure to rescue, bed sores, postoperative sepsis, and postoperative pulmonary embolism. And if their occurrence could be reduced by just 20 percent, 39,000 lives can be saved each year. Whether medical error rates have dropped since the study remains to be seen.

2. Hospitals' Efficiency

The hospitals in the US can significantly improve patient care and also save a minimum of about $4 billion annually, only if they became more efficient. These conclusions follow from an analysis by Thomson Reuters. Key suggestions from the company to save costs include reducing hospital-acquired infections and slashing hospital readmissions. While the minimum savings are to the tune of $4 billion, with some really effective measures in place hospitals could save up to $20 billion over a span of three years. That's about $7 billion a year in savings.

3. Electronic Health Records

The present state of affairs seems pretty dismal as only 1.5 percent of U.S. hospitals have implemented facility-wide comprehensive health care information technology systems. Further, just about 8 – 11 percent hospitals have at least a single unit with installed with basic health care IT systems. (New England Journal of Medicine, NEJM, Mar 2009).

While smaller budgets, maintenance costs, hesitation among health care professional are said to be the primary reasons preventing the widespread use of IT systems, the long-term effects of installing them need to be taken into account. At the same time, it's hardly any use having IT systems in place when their power isn't leveraged via effective use.

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