The True “Cost” Of Dual, Manual Data Entry in Healthcare
Dual and manual data entry in healthcare: status quo ‘cost of doing business’ or unnecessary roadblock?
One of the most pressing health IT needs that results in calls to the integration “help line” from healthcare organizations is dual, manual data entry. This can occur between any two systems at a healthcare organization, but it usually begins with an electronic health record (EHR) system. Staff at any given level are usually entering data into their EHR, then entering that same data into a second system such as, customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, scheduling systems, billing systems, referral management platforms… you get the drift.
Dual, manual data entry is an unnecessary and easy-to-eliminate time drain that has been blamed for not only reduced job satisfaction among staff, but also wasted resources and unnecessary errors. And when broadly classified as “data entry,” it is one of the leading causes of physician burnout.
MIMIT Health, the interventional radiology and endovascular therapy, nine-practice group in Chicago, uses a variety of health IT platforms — as do most healthcare providers — as standard operating procedure.
That’s because EHRs may be great at a few things, but perhaps another platform is preferred for its superior scheduling functions. Or, a specialty-specific EHR is paired with a more broadly-used CRM to deliver the best IT solutions for each of a practice’s unique needs along the continuum of care. Dual, manual entry between these systems is often thought of as an obligatory side effect, chalked up to “the cost of doing business” — the status-quo in the digital era that requires too much thought, effort, time and money to improve. So why change things?
MIMIT Health’s Founder, Chairman and CEO, Dr. Paramjit “Romi” Chopra, started upending these status quo ideologies, asking questions that were more like a business entrepreneur than a medical doctor: surely there had to be a more efficient way of handling data (or a way to handle “data entry” even less, as the case may be). His need to reign in organizational efficiency for MIMIT led him to explore different health IT solutions.
“Where do we need to go next? I call it the ‘Amazonification’ of healthcare,” said Chopra. “Constant innovation provides tremendous value to the customer. So how do we go about improving customer service in healthcare? It’s about the patient experience and engagement.”
Dr. Chopra’s quest to find a “better way” led him to find solutions which enabled MIMIT Health to remove the dual entry burden, saving his care providers and staff around two hours a day, per patient. Across all of their locations, with an average day’s patient volume, this equates to 70 hours a day which are reallocated to delivering patient care.
Breaking down the time (and money)
Here’s what the math could look like for any given healthcare organization that is utilizing disparate EHR and CRM systems — what dual, manual data entry might cost them in time, in this one example:
Dual, manual data entry into both EHR and CRM systems takes:
- 5 minutes per patient, per day
- x 80 patients a day, on average, per facility
- x 6 facilities
- = 2400 minutes per day (or 40 hours)
- x approximately 260 working days a year in the U.S.
- = 624,000 minutes per year, or 10,400 hours
- (2,080 hours per year is the national standard of hours worked for full-time workers in the U.S.)
- / 40 hours in a full-time employee’s week
- = 5 full-time employees, over the course of a year
To reiterate: that’s five full-time employees whose time could have been reallocated to focus on the patient experience, once dual, manual entry is removed, and these broken processes become automated.
Let’s say this particular level of employee makes $35,000 a year, times five employees. That’s $175,000 a year reallocated toward the patient experience.
Using the above example to understand problem scope, did you know that some integration projects could cost five to seven times less than what organizations are already throwing away on this problem annually?
This is often referred to in healthcare as the “opportunity cost.”
“The opportunity cost of devoting resources to a particular use is defined as the loss of benefits the resources could have produced had they been put to their next-best use — the lost opportunity to invest in that alternative.” (Source: healthaffairs.org)
With the right health IT platforms and integration solutions at play, complicated opportunity cost questions can be answered more definitively.
The true cost of misaligned resources — the patient experience
To consider such a pervasive IT pain point in healthcare in these terms, however — black and white ledger sheets, time saved, dollars and cents — is missing the larger point.
The healthcare industry is not selling commoditized goods — widgets categorized by different colors or sizes, or anything of the sort. It is about improving and saving people’s lives. And those who felt a calling to healthcare, likely didn’t enter the industry to make sense of time savings’ spreadsheets, nor to perform repetitive data entry.
“I’m in the business of taking care of people,” said Chopra. “And I don’t care how you want to talk about care models, as B-to-B, B-to-C, or whatever. It’s all H-to-H, human-to-human, as far as I’m concerned. Because when you’re ill, you don’t go to a building. You want to go to another person.”
“Think about it from the patient’s point of view,” says Andy Harlen, Chief Revenue Officer at Bridge Connector. “When a patient is waiting to be seen by a doctor, much of that time is attributed to data entry which is occurring on someone’s part on that care team. Ask any patient who is in and out of a hospital with any frequency, ‘What was an aspect of your patient experience that could have been improved? They’re likely going to tell you that it was their intake or discharge process.”
Harlen went on to explain a recent experience with his grandfather, where he waited eight hours to be discharged from a hospital. There was a more complex problem at play, because he didn’t have a place to be discharged to yet.
But this experience is not uncommon, according to Harlen, because a patient’s discharge from a facility is still a “highly manual process.”
Some of the most frustrating experiences for the patient — admissions and discharge — are also two of the easiest targets to improve by removing care staff’s time which is spent on dual, data manual entry.
Removing such IT roadblocks are among the first steps to deliver “better, faster and cheaper” care, according to Chopra — one of a growing number of physicians who is re-thinking healthcare, including from the business perspective.
“You are not delivering the best experience possible for your patients if you are not connected, mobile and collaborative, to deliver them more patient-centered care,” said Chopra.
Harlen agrees: “The bottom line is that broken intake and discharge processes cost providers in dollars and cents, because beds aren’t turned over as quickly, plain and simple. But the more potentially damaging costs have to be examined as well — the experience costs of patients and staff.”