BridgeHead Software refutes suggestion that hospital IT does not cut costs

Ashtead, UK - December 2009 - The conclusions of a ScienceDirect report just released in the US - which claims that the computerization of hospitals does not cut costs - have been refuted by BridgeHead Software, the healthcare data management specialist.

"The researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Partners Healthcare System in Boston have done a sterling job with their research, but the report concludes that the use of IT in hospitals only leads to modest increase in quality - and that overall costs do not improve," said Tony Cotterill, BridgeHead's chief executive.

"Our observations suggest otherwise, mainly because our clients have not just computerised their systems, but have made full use of the many extra resources which adding IT to the healthcare systems mix engenders," he added.

According to Cotterill - whose firm has supplied data management and archiving systems to a number of hospitals and healthcare organisations both sides of the Atlantic - the secondary usage of the data that results from adding IT to a healthcare records environment is the key to improved cost savings and consequential patient service improvements.

Healthcare organisations, he explained, can make extensive use of the electronic data that is collated as a result of computerising patient treatment records and allied diagnostic services.

In the NHS, for example, the task of producing monthly, quarterly and annual statistics for line management becomes a lot easier, and `what if' data interrogations - previously difficult on pre-computerised record systems - can be carried out in close to real-time.

When you factor in the speedier diagnostic advantages to the patient and improvements to health costing systems that are possible from the computerisation of hospital systems, the BridgeHead chief executive went on to say, it's clearly a win-win situation on several fronts.

But, Cotterill cautioned, merely introducing an electronic patient record (EPR) system to the healthcare environment - without overhauling and improving allied systems as well - means that the real cost and healthcare efficiencies that derive from computerisation cannot be enjoyed by everyone concerned.

Whilst it's true to say that early pioneers of computerisation in the healthcare environment - and we are talking about the 1980s here - have only reaped some of the advantages that IT brings to the hospital environment, those systems have long since been improved, he said.

The re-use of data to boost efficiency within the healthcare industry is quite well documented, with the Department of Health having recently published details of a consultation into the use of health records.

According to the study (, 75 per cent of researchers thought it was acceptable for data from sealed envelopes to be used for additional purposes if anonymised without the need for patient consent.

Plans call for the Department of Health to set up a number of pilots across England to explore how patients can opt out of having their records viewed for research purposes.

According to Cotterill, once this option is integrated into the computerised healthcare options - which should happen by the summer of 2010 - then the re-use of patient data can start.

"Provided patient confidentiality is ensured, then the anonymous re-use of data can help to boost productivity with little extra fixed or marginal costs, and that is extremely positive," he said.

"Our own views here at Bridgehead is that, amongst the many healthcare users of our data management technology, we have yet to encounter a client whose productivity cannot be boosted the effective re-use of patient data," he added.

On the topic of the US report, BridgeHead's chief executive noted that the ScienceDirect study's findings appear to be at odds with the Department of Health analysis on the subject, as well as anecdotal observations amongst his company's many clients.

Provided healthcare managers carefully plan the computerisation of the patient diagnostic and allied services environment, then Cotterill says there are no reasons why the healthcare unit cannot boost productivity, cut costs and - arguably most important of all - improve the patient treatment experience.

"The key to the introduction of enhanced IT to the patient care environment is a comprehensive root and branch approach to planning, as well as an understanding of the way allied systems can also be improved," he said.

"Excellent though this report is, it overlooks our observations that computerising hospitals on a piecemeal basis can never be as effective as adding IT to the mix on a carefully planned basis," he added.

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BridgeHead Software is a leading provider of Healthcare Data Management (HDM) software for healthcare institutions and is the world's leading provider of MEDITECH data protection, with over 300 hospital networks worldwide supporting more than 1000 individual hospitals. BridgeHead HDM combines backup, archive and recovery capabilities with seamless integration into specialized healthcare systems and applications commonly found in healthcare environments. Integrated systems include HCIS from MEDITECH, PACS systems from multiple vendors, Microsoft applications and leading storage systems. BridgeHead Software HDM is storage and vendor agnostic, enabling HDM to work with a customer's current and future systems infrastructure.