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The Cost Benefits of Implementing Evidence-Based Practice

Evidence-Based Medicine or EBM is more than just a promising future for healthcare education. Recent research into EBM has shown that implementation at hospitals can lower costs, and potentially lead to an affordable future for patients, doctors, and hosp
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Evidence-Based Medicine or EBM is more than just a promising future for healthcare education. Recent research into EBM has shown that implementation at hospitals can lower costs, and potentially lead to an affordable future for patients, doctors, and hospitals across the country.

Despite the widespread acceptance of integrating EBM into medical practice, it seems to be catching on slowly in some areas. For example, in emergency rooms - where patients are rushed through treatment in an attempt to get them through as fast as possible - EBM is often disregarded.

When looking at healthcare spending in the United States, the majority of the money our country spends is centered on outpatient care, while pharmaceuticals and costly tests are a close second. All of these factors can be lowered if EBM was used more frequently in hospitals and emergency rooms.

To test this theory, one Stanford hospital - Stanford Health Care - focused their efforts on lowering readmission rates by increasing their efforts in standardized care, or EBM. They primarily focused on heart-related issues, and they buckled down on collecting real-time data instead of using their previous data set which had a three-month delay. In 2011 they had a 20% readmission rate for heart failure patients, and by 2013 that readmission rate dropped to 6%.

As Modern Healthcare highlighted in their piece on Stanford Health Care: “Best practices were standardized. Before discharge, prescriptions are reviewed by a pharmacist, and patients receive an educational session about their medications and dietary needs. Within 48 hours of being sent home, patients receive check up phone calls and are scheduled for follow-up visits within two weeks. The efforts have paid off…”

Rutgers University also discusses the impact EBM has on healthcare spending in their infographic on Using Evidence-Based Practice to Improve Healthcare in the United States. According to their research, “a third of all hospitals in the United States are not meeting the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI) benchmarks, meaning there is a lot of room for improvement.” The NDNQI provides reports on structure, process, and outcome indicators for evaluating nursing care. Rutgers University elaborates on this hospital deficit in care and claims that proper implementation of EBM will not only improve patient outcomes but lower hospital costs substantially.

It’s obvious that implementing Evidence-Based Medicine could lead to a more beneficial future for patients and hospitals alike, but the question remains: why invest in EBM and not invest in patient care directly?

The University of Illinois at Chicago answers that question in terms of the cost benefits of eHealth: “If a health organization delivers health services more efficiently and with fewer employees – the organization itself may realize the financial benefit. However, if technologies provide a patient population with better care, fewer complications from disease, and less expensive screenings, then society as a whole might receive the benefit. [...] Other “downstream” impact factors must be considered in determining the overall return on investment, and realization of cost savings may take years.”

If implementing EBM worked so efficiently for Stanford Health Care, then it’s entirely possible that it will work for the US Healthcare system as a whole. With our ability to collect information on a large scale through electronic health records (EHR) and real-time data, implementing the best medical treatment shouldn’t be difficult. It will only take some time to adjust.

Once more hospitals make the switch to EBM, it’s only a small step away from providing a better healthcare future for all Americans.

About the author:

Katie McBeth is a researcher hailing from Boise, ID. She spends her free time being the mother of three cats and a dog named Toby. You can follow her animal and writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth.