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Automation and the Healthcare Cost Curve

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, April 30, 2012

"If you look at an average hospital's financial statement, 50%–60% of their expenses are salaries and benefits," he says. "By definition healthcare is an inflationary model, but it's exacerbated by the fact that everyone wants to hire more people rather than think about how they can live with fewer people. That's what got us to this conundrum."

Dragovits says a first step for many hospital senior leaders is placing an emphasis on labor-saving technology and techniques.

"The challenge in this industry has always been getting people excited and intrigued and rewarded for looking at things innovatively and using technology to do things quicker and cheaper," he says. "That requires thinking through a plan or strategy. I'm willing, as CFO, to make an investment to get those returns."

Parkland, which is building a totally new replacement hospital across the street from its current 775-staffed-bed main campus, is trying to get ahead on some of the gains from automation, as it has a rare opportunity to design something from scratch.

"As we look at building our new building, I'd like to start with a 100% automated lab," says Dragovits.

That means designing it the reverse way, he says, in that planners are evaluating various technologies to make the lab as automated as possible before integrating a labor force into the planning models.

"The plan is to integrate people if needed," he says. "I've gotten a lot of support on that."

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