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Picture a warehouse filled with unused and unopened medical equipment. Each surgical mask, syringe, and IV bag collecting dust and worth thousands of dollars. And ProPublica found that it’s not a warehouse that doctors use to buy equipment—it's a 15,000-square-foot storage facility for supplies that hospitals have thrown away. Wasted healthcare spending doesn’t just affect self-insured employers; it also affects hospitals too. The U.S.healthcare system wastes about a quarter of what’s spent—about $765 billion a year.
Hospital waste can come in many forms: excess administration costs, unnecessary medical treatments, and inefficient hospital services. And while many other industries are using data to drive efficiency, healthcare seems to be one area where the technology is driving demand for both employers and hospitals.
Here are three ways hospitals are using data to drive better care.
Blood is an expensive commodity. According to Health IT Analytics, blood bags cost $1000 per unit for blood transfusions. Because it’s also hard to come by due to the decline in blood donations, healthcare systems are taking action. They’re using data to reduce unnecessary blood use and keep it in stock for those who truly need it. Benchmarking data was key: hospitals were able to reduce blood use by nearly half for patients undergoing procedures with the highest utilization rates.
The surgery room is where hospitals gain the most revenue. So having an efficient surgery room is important.
Poor planning and scheduling for significant procedures not only increases stress, but it can also impact surgical outcomes. Overbooked operating rooms can increase the risk of doctor fatigue and cause delays which can affect patient health.
With the help of data analytics, doctors can harness data that incorporates historical time patterns to improve operating room and staff efficiency. It’s a win-win for hospitals because they are increasing their revenue and ensuring that their patients are receiving the right level of care.
Unnecessary emergency room visits are another source of problems for hospitals. Kaiser Health News reported on a woman who visited the ER more than 900 times in 3 years.
That’s because the emergency room staff at one ER clinic did not know that other local hospitals also helped her receive treatment. They didn’t share records, and this woman didn’t receive the care she needed.
Repeat emergency room patients are problematic because they can increase patient wait times by distracting doctors when other patients might need care more than they do. Hospitals in the San Francisco Bay area are now using big data and working together to track ER patients to prevent repeated ER users. They can now input a patient's name, receive alerts if they were treated at another hospital, and determine what treatment was given.
By tracking expensive materials, better scheduling to prevent staff burnout, and analyzing the frequency of ER visits, hospitals are using data to drive better care. A strong data analytics tool can help connect the dots and combat wasteful spending.