October 17, 2016

In the News: More Focus on Health Care Inefficiencies

TeleTracking President calls for more Focus on Health Care Inefficiencies

Lydia Nuzum, Reporter Pittsburgh Business Times

Mike Gallup, President of Pittsburgh-based TeleTracking, said the Institutes of Medicine found a decade ago that the operational inefficiencies that plague many hospitals and health care facilities amount to roughly $750 billion in waste per year nationally — a number Gallup says is likely around $1 trillion now.

“Think about how many more patients we could serve — you could serve all the patients that Obama wanted to cover in (the Affordable Care Act) just by fixing inefficient flow of patients through the entire system,” Gallup said.

Those inefficiencies, which range from problems with patient flow through a facility to lack of communication, are what companies like TeleTracking work to address by creating automated systems that help monitor patients and assets. Since its founding in 1991, TeleTracking has expanded so that its applications represent 80 percent of the installed flow automation market.

Nurses are just one example, Gallup said. Most nurses are only able to devote one-third of their time to treating patients, while the rest is spent either doing paperwork or trying to find the right person or asset to address a specific problem.

“I believe there are a bunch of very good, very smart people doing the best they can in these facilities…What we’re tackling is, how do you get to the point where clinicians in the industry are spending their time doing what they were born to do, which is to provide care,” he said. “We want to eliminate that frustration and get them with the patient more.”

Gallup presented testimony to the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health last month on the issue, and said the discussion boiled down to the need to focus more on how government policy can encourage more work on the problem.

“This was really about, how do they get out of the way to allow innovation to happen? They brought up tackling fraud, and my point to them was that fraud is 7 percent of that number, and yet it gets so much more press,” he said. “Seven percent of the problem gets 90 percent of the press, but what we’re talking about from a TeleTracking perspective is that we have eyes on $200 (billion) or $300 billion a year just from operational inefficiencies.”

Systems like the ones TeleTracking employs see measurable results, Gallup said. One of its partner hospitals that sees 300 patients a day places an average of one to two patients a day in the wrong bed, compared to the 10 percent to 30 percent of patients that end up being transferred after admission in hospitals with more traditional systems. TeleTracking is also able to tag assets so that hospitals can track where they are at any given time, he said, as well as sensors that know when a patient has left a bed.

Gallup pointed to a case study of Health First, a Brevard, Fla., health system, that TeleTracking commissioned from Rand Corp. which found that after three years with an IT patient flow system, Health First’s adult transfers had increased by 300 percent, and wait times for its emergency department decreased by 37 percent.

“That number adds up to $50 million in costs; they can run off of Medicare margins and break even, which makes them one of the few, if not the only, in the country that can,” he said.

Gallup said he would like to see the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services measure several inefficiency metrics in the same way it measures emergency room wait time, the only patient flow metric CMS currently monitors.

“The overall throughput isn’t measured,” he said. “We have five or six measures they could look at, but the overarching story is that there’s just no focus on it, and administrators are doing everything they can, but there are so many other things they’re asked to do by the government, and there’s no real focus on this.”

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