You know what we need? We need some good studies on return on investment (ROI) to support patient tracking & flow for RTLS in Healthcare. Decisions to approve projects and investments are made all day and every day in business based on expected ROI. But if you can’t illustrate to leadership how the business will make a buck twenty-five for every dollar invested, then you may as well save your breath.
There are a few ROI studies out there from an asset tracking or temperature monitoring perspective. They’re more on the side of cost avoidance and cost savings, than revenue generating. As a matter of fact, six years ago, when we (at MD Anderson) went live with our temperature monitoring solution in the division of pharmacy, one of our refrigerators in our investigational drug pharmacy was alerted that the temperature was falling out of an acceptable range. The charge pharmacist received the alert and had the time to move the drugs to a refrigerator operating properly. This avoided the loss of more than $200k in investigational research chemotherapy medication. Obviously, if these drugs had “gone bad” then MD Anderson would have had to purchase its replacement.
RTLS technology helped avoid the loss of more than $200k in investigational research chemotherapy medication.
Along similar lines, colleagues of mine in a hospital in South Florida avoid excessive IV pump rental fees by setting par levels per clinic and tracking pumps in various places, like Biomedical Engineering, clinical storage areas, and trunks of nurse’s cars (just kidding). This hospital had a problem with “hoarding” of IV pumps. Why is boarding such a bad thing you ask? Well anytime folks hoard equipment, then there ends up being a shortage of the same equipment elsewhere in the hospital. So what typically happens? You may have guessed it. Hospitals buy or rent more IV pumps.
Of course this is not the right answer. This hospital in South Florida decided they would track pumps with room-level specificity so that pumps could be found, regardless of whether they were being hoarded or not. This has saved thousands per year in rental costs.
But enough about asset tracking and temp monitoring. What about patient flow? Good question…
Talking with colleagues that have substantial patient tracking implementations, bringing up ROI questions mostly elicits the same response, “Yeah, about that…”
There are always great use cases for patient flow. A few hospitals that I know of use RTLS patient tracking systems to track patients in the OR providing real-time status of their whereabouts to loved ones in the waiting area. This is such a popular service to patients and their families in these hospitals, but no quantified ROI for the business has been published. No studies linking a higher patient satisfaction rate, resulting in more surgeries being done at these hospitals as opposed to their competition. Similarly, no evidence yet of hospitals being able to squeeze in one more surgical case per day – resulting in increased revenue.
Several hospitals use RTLS to track patients in their outpatient exam and treatment centers. They tell inspiring stories of how nurses and support staff are so much more efficient currently than before the system was implemented. They talk about the perceived timesavings they’ve benefited from by having the system in place. But so far, I’ve seen no published studies indicating calculated ROI directly attributed to RTLS in these use cases.
I think we can all agree that this is not a hopeless situation. It doesn’t mean that there are actually no financial benefits to having RTLS in place for patient tracking. This is a call to arms, “we need to publish ROI studies and articles supporting RTLS in healthcare.” Sure there are a lot of stories in various blogs and publications claiming cost savings here and there. Also, there is a lot out there discussing fantastic and interesting use cases of RTLS in healthcare, but these are not ROI studies. A couple of articles I’ve seen out there actually claim to have increased revenue. But so far, I’ve not seen these claims backed up with any tangible evidence.
This is a call to arms, “we need to publish ROI studies and articles supporting RTLS in healthcare.”
So the path is clear for you (and for me)! Let’s get inspired by this Healthcare IT – RTLS leaders! Let’s get creative and do some research. In order to see more investment in this RTLS in healthcare, our senior leaders are going to need to see more evidence that the business is not just investing in a science project, but on a solution that can actually benefit operations, can save money, and even generate revenue.
We can do this!
Post Script: If you have written any or know of any studies that have been published in claiming returns on investment in healthcare RTLS, please post a link to the source in the comments section and tell us a bit about it!