The Three Hidden Costs of Downtime That Have Nothing to Do With Dollars

When people think about healthcare information system downtimes, they often immediately think about the impact on patient care. But, downtimes can be very costly in terms of both patient safety and dollars, especially if you don’t have a good business continuance plan, which we’ll outline below. But the financial costs are not the only costs. Total costs include:

1) The Financial Cost
2) HIDDEN COST #1: The Cost to Patient Safety and Care
3) HIDDEN COST #2: The Cost of Not Being HIPAA Compliant
4) HIDDEN COST #3: Your Reputation

The Financial Costs

These costs are not insignificant. In fact, we dedicated an entire article to them that you can read here. Here’s a brief summary:

• Each unplanned outage costs Healthcare facilities an average of $740,357*
• That’s $8,851 per minute
• Downtimes have gone up by 38% since 2010
• Unplanned system downtimes occur an average of 2.7 times in a two-¬year period.

HIDDEN COST #1: The Cost to Patient Safety and Care

When the HCIS goes down, hospitals without an electronic business continuity plan must operate the way hospitals used to operate — Manually. This is easier for nurses who were nursing prior to EMRs, but challenging for others. First, they have to track down the latest patient records (which often looks like a 5K Fun Run).

Here is what’s at risk during downtime for patients:

• Clinicians are unable to access patient records, including medication records, lab results and other information needed to treat patients
• Clinicians are unable to access the most up-to-date patient records
• Medications may not be given on time, administered properly or given at all
• Patient care is delayed as the staff goes through the manual downtime procedures
• Workflows are altered (which, as stated, can be more challenging to nurses who weren’t nursing in the pre-EMR days)

HIDDEN COST #2: HIPAA Compliance

HIPAA “Security Guidelines” mandate that all healthcare organizations using healthcare data comply with business continuity standards. The penalties and fines for non-compliance are significant.

You can read more about the specific guidelines here.

HIDDEN COST #3: Your Reputation

When your HCIS goes down, and it inevitably will, patient care is often delayed. The transfer of information that normally happens automatically with the HCIS running doesn’t occur, which means that important updates to treatment and medication are not easily accessed

Diminished patient satisfaction can cause your HCAHPS scores to drop and create less-than-positive word of mouth that drives less traffic to your hospital.

These hidden costs of downtime are real and can have a lasting impact on the financial health and reputation of a hospital. Not sure if you’re at risk? These are the six telltale signs your data could be compromising patient care.

*2016 Ponemon Institute study.

Posted in Business Continuity, Healthcare Information Systems.

Arthur Young is a visionary healthcare information systems entrepreneur who has focused Interbit Data’s offerings on providing secure and reliable methods of connecting users with HCIS information. Prior to founding Medical Systems Solutions (the precursor to Interbit Data) in 1997, Arthur spent 10 years with MEDITECH and three years at JJWild.

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