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Giving doctors real-time technology may save money for hospitals

The technology has the potential to cut costs and improve patient care

Getting physicians to cut costs is one of the biggest challenges in healthcare and has become more important as hospitals purchase more practices. Putting technology in the hands of doctors that can provide real-time data can help cut costs, but such technology can be expensive for health systems. The question then becomes is it worth it economically?

“Traditionally there has been a divergence between what drives physicians and what is important to hospitals,” said Steven Liu, MD, chairman and founder of Ingenious Med, a mobile billing and care coordination solution company in Atlanta, Ga. “Recently changes have come about that encourages the physician and the hospital to begin collaborating. Physicians are now aligned with health systems in sharing savings and helping them improve their current financial concerns.”

This interaction can be critical. What physicians order and write (or don’t write) is a top driver of hospital costs through influencing length of stay, quality of care and tests performed.

“Most doctors don’t mind taking these issues into account when they are comfortable that the actions won’t hinder their ability to care for their patients,” said Liu. “It’s just that they often will not have the information at the point of care to make those decisions. That is why there has been a big movement by hospitals into solutions that get business information to the doctors while the patients are in front them.”

He sees this as yet another adjustment in the way hospitals look at data. While he noted there are very good programs available for catching this information, the data may not make it to the clinics.

“The critical issue is making this part of the physician’s daily workflow,” said Liu. “You need to embed information on costs, quality, best practices and other points while they are seeing patients. That is the kind of magical area where you will actually get behavioral change that moves the dial.”

One often-overlooked indirect benefit to the hospital is an improvement in communication with the patient. Portals allow them or family members to explore the chart, ask more pertinent questions and review patient teaching in a less stressful environment.

“So much of care is being done outside of traditional hospital settings,” said Steve Massini, vice president of financial reporting for Geisinger Clinic in Danville, Pa. “The patient’s ability to see and understand their records translates to the right care at the right time in the right setting. This eliminates costly waste through readmissions, additional procedures or care that is not needed.”

Both private and governmental payers are emphasizing the attainment of quality indicators. They include their own money adding incentives for both physicians and hospitals meeting those goals. Real-time access to indicators increases the likelihood they will be followed and that extra money accrues to hospital revenues.

“Within the provider community, the ability to see and monitor the care of patients in real time has numerous benefits,” said Massini. “Anyone interacting with the patient clinically can pull up needed data and act on it immediately. Therefore the management of the patient is more efficient both in cost and, most importantly, in quality of care.”

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