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Use Telehealth to Zap the Cost of Sick Days

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, August 6, 2012

Do you know how your organization's employee wellness (or lack thereof) affects your bottom line? The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine says there is no precise formula for measuring the actual cost of losses in productivity from illness. However, the final cost must be based on how loss of production influences the bottom line by department or service line. Other losses to calculate include idle assets and benefits paid to absent workers, according to the ACOEM.

In hospitals and health systems, illnesses can leave holes in schedules that force clinical staff leaders to turn to expensive agency providers. "One of the challenges that [nursing leaders] struggle with is the cost of overtime to an organization. But you have to staff for the forecasted census, you have to have the right number of nurses," remarks Polly Davenport, RN, CEO at Ochsner Medical Center–North Shore, a 165-bed acute care hospital on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in Slidell, LA, with who I spoke to earlier this year about controlling nurse labor costs.

One way to cut healthcare expenses is through telemedicine, aka telehealth. Virtual office visits and virtual rounding have been shown to lower healthcare costs by reducing avoidable hospital admissions and providing regular access to care in remote parts of states. Telemedicine is just plain more convenient for everyone in this busy world. To learn more about how hospitals can reap the financial rewards of telehealth with their patients, check out my article in the July edition of HealthLeaders magazine.

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