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The cost of downtime and how to avoid it while improving care

par Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | August 11, 2015
From the August 2015 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

It’s a big deal when the CT scanner fails unexpectedly at the Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Illinois. The 24-hour Level I trauma center needs a physician, registered nurse and respiratory therapist to transport each critically ill patient to the main campus upstairs where another CT is located. “These are highly engineered pieces of equipment and they all run a lot of different computer components, so anything can go wrong,” says Kurt Brauer, manager of inpatient imaging at the center.

“Transporting critically ill patients to the upper floor is a resource drain and it’s not the best patient care.” To repair the CT, the field engineers come on site to identify the cause of the failure and order a replacement part.

Since parts such as CT tubes may need to be shipped from another state, the center may have to wait six hours for the part to arrive and then another four to six hours for it to be installed. It can take up to 12 hours to get the CT up and running.

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If the CT fails after hours or on a weekend, the center has to pay overtime for the repair team and call in additional staff to transport the patients, which can raise the overall cost to thousands of dollars. “We are focused on providing a great patient experience at Memorial, and having lengthy delays in completing CT exams for ED patients leads to extended length of stay in the ED. That is a patient satisfaction killer,” says Brauer.

Patient satisfaction killer
For facilities that don’t provide 24-hour service, the consequences of downtime are less serious but still have a significant impact. Health care reform is shining a light on patient satisfaction, making financial incentives another driving force behind preventing downtime.

“If you have unscheduled or inconvenient downtimes, that can impact patient experience,” says Lisa Collins, vice president of marketing and business operations for service at Siemens Healthcare. “As many hospitals shift from volume-based reimbursement to value-based, [patient satisfaction] is going to become bigger and bigger.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services partnered with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services, to create the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers Systems (HCAHPS) survey.

It’s a standardized survey that patients fill out in order to measure their opinion of the care they received at a hospital. Hospitals can qualify for bonus payments from CMS depending on the feedback patients provide.

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