ECRI Cautions Hospitals About Tech Hype

Cheryl Clark, February 12, 2014

ECRI analysts say the use of such systems is growing in U.S. hospitals and that costs vary widely, from $3.2 million at Newark Beth Israel Hospital to $150,000 in Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, MD.

Positive outcomes, such as reduced readmissions are expected, but "published evidence for that has not yet accumulated."

4. Copper Surfaces in Hospital Rooms
Copper's ability to reduce transmission of bacteria, and potentially, viruses in healthcare settings is well understood and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But whether hospitals should retrofit their stainless-steel and plastic inpatient and intensive care units with copper surfaces, copper bed rails, food trays, grab bars, carts, sinks, and faucets, remains unclear. The use of copper could even permeate patient gowns through copper-spun threads.

Reducing hospital-acquired infections could save money by reducing length of stay, readmissions, and "administrators could see a return on investment due to fewer infections within their own staffs."

But the estimated cost to equip every hospital room with copper products ranges between $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion.

The steep expense raises the question about how much to use and in what areas. "Determining the number of copper-fitted items to place in a room is a big question and should be based on evidence-based design—that is, clinical evidence," the ECRI report says.

5. Powered Exoskeletons
As shown in an episode of the TV show, Glee, and in this video, powered exoskeletons, now in use in about 30 rehabilitation hospitals, enable patients with paraplegia from spinal cord injuries to stand upright and even to walk.

They can cost $100,000 or more, "but less expensive options are also on the horizon," the ECRI report says.

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