HealthFebruary 25, 2024

What are the hidden costs of choosing a low-cost clinical decision support solution?

With expenses continuing to rise for hospitals and health systems, choosing lower-cost decision support resources can seem like an easy way to save budget. But small savings upfront often lead to unexpected and costly inefficiencies and poor outcomes down the road.

How do clinical decision support tools compare?

It is generally accepted at most healthcare systems that electronic clinical decision support (CDS) solutions are essential and expected tools to aid clinicians in answering daily clinical questions and helping to contend with information overload. 

However, when breaking down mounting hospital expenses, the American Hospital Association notes an 18% increase for IT services. CDS along with other healthcare IT resources can feel like a convenient line item on which to seek out savings. When opportunities arise to try lower-cost alternative tools or experiment with individual staff subscriptions, many procurement committees and administrations will view these options as an immediate win. 

But over time, the hidden costs of these alternatives will begin to emerge:

  • Decreased clinician satisfaction and usage.
  • Increases in diagnostic errors, care inconsistency, and length of stay.
  • Workflow inefficiencies and IT standardization concerns.
  • All of which can result in a lower return on investment (ROI).

User adoption and clinician burnout

ROI is only realized if clinicians use a solution across an entire organization. Low adoption delivers low value.

A CDS solution that provides fewer answers than your clinicians need or that isn’t easy for them to access at the point of care will not be used to full potential by clinical teams. Low clinician adoption can result in:

  • Questions going unanswered or lacking concrete recommendations, which forces clinicians to turn to other resources and leads to increased costs, workflow inefficiency, care variability, and poorer outcomes.
  • Clinicians operating outside the workflow to access resources, causing significant workflow disruption, care team misalignment, and clinician frustration.

Ultimately, when clinicians don’t adopt the organization’s chosen resource, it places additional burdens on their time to manage their own CDS resources and research. This can increase clinician burnout and reduce satisfaction.

Inconsistent diagnostic and drug information causing confusion and errors

One of the advantages of a universally adopted, system-wide CDS solution is that it can help your organization reduce variability in care. With unified diagnostic and drug solutions designed to work together and deliver aligned information, your teams are all working from the same playbook.

With lower-cost alternative solutions, care team members are using disparate point-of-care solutions that are not unified under a single editorial policy. This can result in care team misalignment.

Siloed diagnostic and drug resources lead to conflicting information within the care team, which in turn increases the likelihood of errors, resulting in:

  • Increased patient harm
  • Increased cost
  • Greater treatment complexity
  • Low patient satisfaction
  • Damage to the organization’s reputation
  • Longer length of stay, which impacts:
    • Increased costs
    • Reduced capacity
    • Delayed new patient treatments
    • Poorer patient outcomes

The need for seamless integration

The most efficient CDS workflow for clinicians is to have access to resources within the electronic health record (EHR). In many cases, when health systems implement a low-cost alternative CDS solution, adoption is low, and clinicians prefer to subscribe individually to their own CDS tools in addition to what the hospital offers. Not only is this costly, it becomes inefficient, as clinicians cannot access their preferred solutions within the EHR workflow, increasing their time to find an answer and unnecessarily amplifying the complexity of the workflow. Ultimately, this adds to the likelihood of poorer patient outcomes.

Managing a hybrid workflow with clinicians using both integrated CDS and standalone CDS resources will drive complexity for IT administration. This not only increases costs and workloads for IT, it creates a situation in which administration has no access to usage data or trends for those using individual standalone resources.

Hidden costs and impacts: Your CDS evaluation criteria

While the initial cost savings of alternative CDS solutions may seem appealing, it is essential to recognize the potential long-term impacts this decision may have on your patients, clinicians, and your overall healthcare organization.

Review your selection criteria and download our guide, “Understanding the repercussions of low-cost solutions.”

Download the guide
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