You Get What You Pay For With Health IT

March 11, 2011
Eric Postal, MD

Yes, times are tough. Costs are up, reimbursements are down, yada yada yada. And it’s true, you might not need the flashiest equipment on the market, and the biggest price-tag does not always mean the best product. You might not need the Lamborghini when a Hyundai will get you where you need to go. But paying even less and getting a used junker which will break down once a week is going a little too far with the concept.

“PACS is down again.”

“The prior study is on one of our corrupted tapes.”

“We have a call in to support - I’ll try them again.”

Every time I hear statements like these, my blood pressure nudges upwards and my pulse gets a little quicker. I wouldn’t be surprised if an observer also noticed a little pupillary dilatation, maybe an involuntary muscle-twitch here or there.

It’s not that I expect hardware, software, or even people to do their jobs flawlessly all of the time - no matter how much money was paid for that to be the case.

No, what lambasts my limbics and squeezes my adrenals is the phenomenon of the same breakdowns occurring over and over. And over. The same problems keep cropping up, the same people are informed each time…and yet nothing different happens the next time. And each time, productivity slows to a crawl or comes to a crashing halt because the STAT CT can’t be read. Or the prior study can’t be retrieved.

You would think that all it would take would be one or two such instances to identify the root causes of the dysfunction. Proactive steps could be taken so that the problem would be solved, and that particular error would never recur.

Unfortunately, there is one very common root cause that never seems to get addressed, or if it is, the attention it gets is fleeting at best. It’s an old line: “You get what you pay for.”

Yes, times are tough. Costs are up, reimbursements are down, yada yada yada. And it’s true, you might not need the flashiest equipment on the market, and the biggest price-tag does not always mean the best product. You might not need the Lamborghini when a Hyundai will get you where you need to go. But paying even less and getting a used junker which will break down once a week is going a little too far with the concept.

Keep in mind, also, that saving 10 percent with a cheaper PACS, voice-recognition system, or service-contract might make you feel clever, thrifty, and shrewd…but when that 10 percent savings leads to a 15 percent drop in your productivity for the next decade, you might feel differently.

If nothing else, paying slightly more for a reliable system (or a responsive support staff) might save you money on your hypertension-meds and antacids.