Healthcare Organizations have Spent Billions on the WRONG THING

Healthcare Organizations have Spent Billions on the WRONG THING

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The question of what value we in the U.S. receive for our investments in healthcare has never been greater.  Numerous analyses and studies have explored where our more than $4.5 trillion spent on healthcare goes, and how much benefit we garner.  In 2021 more than 30% of this spend was for hospital care, and another 15% for physician services.  And it is clear the total will certainly grow as our population ages.  

As we’ve moved into an era of value-based care we’ve tried to remodel our approach by creating accountable care organizations (ACOs), Clinical Care Networks, and so forth to find ways to collaborate to reduce costs based on efficiencies.  With this has come a focus on quality measures to ensure we’re not allowing the quality of care to erode in the process, as well as data integration efforts so all collaborating parties have a complete view of the patient’s condition; both are laudable goals.  

However, data suggests these efforts may only be adding to the costs.  In fact, a recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University suggests that the monitoring and reporting of quality metrics may be adding on average $5.6 million in additional cost to each hospital.  Extrapolated to the nation’s roughly 4,000 hospitals, and this is adding billions of dollars to our total spending, most of which is focused on the activities and outcomes of acute-care.

It makes us wonder if the focus might be better on keeping patients out of the hospital and investing resources there.  While this certainly applies to the broader concept of preventative care, recognizing the growing population of aged patients perhaps we could make great strides in simply preventing breakdowns in post-acute care.  Ironically, many of the issues in caring for our elderly come down to simple breakdowns in communication.

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The American Hospital Association (AHA) identified a staggering $12 billion in annual healthcare expenditures attributed to communication inefficiencies. This translates to misunderstandings, delays, and ultimately, compromised patient care due to fragmented communication through outdated methods like faxes and voicemails.

In this age of incredible technological advancements, from space exploration to artificial intelligence, this statistic is a stark reminder of a critical gap in healthcare: clear and efficient communication not just between patients and providers but across the care continuum. Communication remains a major hurdle even with sophisticated data-sharing tools like EHRs and EMRs.

Data Sharing And Communication

George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  

This is the perfect summation of the problem. While it’s unlikely Shaw was thinking about healthcare when he said it, we know that just because data is entered into the EHR doesn’t mean those who need it, get it, when they need it.  Data entered into the EHR is akin to someone saying in an empty home “I will be home late,”, and then saying later to their spouse who is upset they weren’t home at the normal hour “well, I said I would be late!”   As one of our founders is fond of saying “Communication is a listener phenomenon, not a speaker phenomenon.” Regardless of the philosophical view, effective communication requires sender and receiver to be coordinated, and the message needs context.

So are we spending enough on trying to keep our elderly out of hospital by simply improving communication?  

We should consider the significance of the fact that data interfaced in today’s dynamic healthcare ecosystem is only a fraction of the care process. What completes the care journey is effective and real-time communication across disparate care organizations. It is the seamless exchange of contextualized information and collaboration among healthcare providers, regardless of organizational boundaries, that ensures holistic,patient-centered care that improves clinical outcomes and reduces expenditures.

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Emerging Trends Resonating The Significance Of Cross-Organizational Communication

A recent report by Frost & Sullivan predicts the global market for secure healthcare collaboration platforms to reach an overwhelming $14.2 billion by 2025. This growth reflects that the industry is finally recognizing the need for better communication across the care continuum.

A patient’s care journey is seamlessly coordinated across different specialists, hospitals, and caregivers. Real-time updates, clear instructions, and secure communication between everyone involved; This isn’t science fiction; it’s the future of healthcare, powered by secure, cross-organizational communication tools.

Data Siloed And Fragmented Communication

It is imperative to incorporate all participants of the care ecosystem into a secure communication strategy. The repercussions of data silos and fragmented communication extend beyond individual patient encounters to broader healthcare system inefficiencies. They impede population health management initiatives, hinder research endeavors, and limit the ability to identify and rectify systemic issues.

By bridging communication between silos and facilitating seamless, timely, and contextualized information exchange among diverse care providers, each caregiver will be better empowered to enable collaborative decision-making, improve care coordination, and enhance patient outcomes

Hucu is an advanced communication platform that transcends organizational and departmental silos of data and communication.  It has specifically been adopted in post-acute care to enable communication to initially prevent hospitalizations, but when they do occur, it streamlines the transfer process to and from the hospital.  Timothy Morton from Miracle-Ear Midwest recounts the success they achieved following their adoption of opens communication lines for interprofessional collaboration between care providers across states. HIPAA compliant texting made easy.”

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Rather than only focusing on investments in acute care, we can consider simple things like improving communication before the patient gets there, and after they leave to avoid returns. No matter how complex and dynamic our healthcare system has become and will continue to evolve, the most important factor for its success lies in a deceptively simple solution; implementing a cross-organizational, patient-centric, secure communication tool accessible by all stakeholders in each patient’s care. By investing in such tools we can bridge the communication gap and unlock the true potential of our healthcare system.


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