High Cost of Downtime in Health Care

Patient health care impact avoided and surgeries proceed as NETSCOUT identifies source of PACS latency.

Doctor referencing chest x-ray on tablet

The cost of downtime is a long-standing concern for any enterprise. In our recent blog on the cost of manufacturing downtime, we highlighted the average cost of a minute downtime to be $5,600, or more than $300,000 for an hour of lost production time. We shared that 98 percent of survey respondents reported an hour of downtime costs their company $100,000, but this figure ranges higher depending on the value of the products manufactured at the factory.

Another recent blog featured a law firm that was experiencing problems with both its voice services and document management application. Its attorneys in remote offices depended on these services to conduct business with clients, and these issues were directly affecting the firm’s billable hours. Easy to understand the firm’s concern if, at a rate of $500 per hour, 50 or 100 of its lawyers at a branch office were unable to talk with clients or pull up their legal documents for an hour. The potential for revenue loss and reputational damage is clear.

The cost of information technology (IT) downtime for the health care industry is similar to other enterprises, with most recent studies citing ranges between $5,300 and $9,000 per minute. However, the risk of unplanned IT outages for health care presents concerns that go well beyond thousands of dollars per minute. When electronic patient records are unavailable for a couple of hours or a day, or imaging and radiology applications can’t transmit X-rays, MRIs, or ultrasounds through the network, the impact extends beyond doctors and medical staff performing their jobs.

A Health Informatics Journal study, “Understanding the scope of downtime threats: A scoping review of downtime-focused literature and news media,” reported that between 2012 and 2018, there was a total of 701 days of downtime caused by 43 events that were experienced by 166 U.S. hospitals. Slightly less than half of these incidents (48.4 percent) were, at least in part, tied to cyberattacks. That leaves the remaining downtime events tied to disruptions related to network and application performance.

Downtime in health care impacts patient safety, patient treatment, customer service, hospital reputation, and overall trust by the patients, families, and communities the affected health institution serves. These areas are unquantifiable in normal costing models due to the human toll they represent. Whether the reason for the disruption in services is related to performance or security, the impact is significant.

When faced with their own performance threat from poorly behaving picture archiving and communications system (PACS) imaging services, the IT team at one hospital turned to their NETSCOUT service assurance solution for insight. See what they learned.

Explore more on how NETSCOUT visibility can help ensure your health care clinical services.