Background: With the impetus for healthcare reform and the imperative for healthcare organizations to improve efficiency and reduce waste, it is valuable to examine high-volume procedures and practices in order to identify potential overuse. At the same time, organizations must ensure that improved efficiency does not inadvertently reduce patient safety.
Methods: We undertook a multicenter analysis of the use of adult cardiac telemetry outside of the intensive care unit or step-down units at 4 teaching hospitals to determine the percentage of monitoring days that were not justified by an accepted indication and the monetary costs associated with these nonindicated days. We also assessed the safety of eliminating monitoring on days when it was not justified by looking at the incidence of arrhythmias.
Results: We found that in 35% of telemetry days, telemetry use was not supported by an accepted set of clinical indications. The incidence of arrhythmias on nonindicated days was low (3.1 per 100 days of monitoring per nonindicated day),and the arrhythmias detected were clinically insignificant. Eliminating monitoring on nonindicated days could save a minimum of $53 per patient per day. The average 400-bed hospital with a conservative estimate of 5000 nonindicated patientdays per year could save $250,000 per year.
Conclusion: Reducing the use of telemetry on nonindicated days may provide an opportunity for institutions to safely reduce cost as well as staff time and effort, while maintaining and potentially increasing patient safety.