Hospitals can reduce care costs by using more oral medications

December 1, 2011

Switching patients from intravenous drugs to pill forms of the same drugs could safely save millions

NATIONAL REPORTS-Switching hospitalized patients able to take medication by mouth from intravenous drugs to pill forms of the same drugs could safely save millions of dollars a year, according to new Johns Hopkins research.

In a review of computerized records for the year 2010, conducted at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, researchers estimated savings of more than $1.1 million in the hospital's Department of Medicine alone-not including surgical patients-by swapping out four commonly prescribed IV medications with their oral equivalents.

"We found that the majority of hospital inpatients receiving any of four commonly prescribed IV medications, each of which has a far less expensive oral equivalent, were potentially eligible to receive oral medication," according to investigator and study lead author Brandyn D. Lau, MD, medical informatician at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "Assuming that all patients were indeed eligible for the equivalent oral medication, the use of IV medication contributes to more than $1.16 million in medication acquisition cost alone."

By developing an electronic reminder in the CPOE that alerts the prescriber of potential clinical eligibility for oral medication, "there may be a reduction in the use of IV medication, the cost of acquiring and administering IV medication, and adverse events such as IV-associated bloodstream infection," he says. "Health IT, in the form of electronic medical records, CPOE and clinical decision support systems, and its meaningful use is a national priority. These are tools that are being adopted by hospitals across the country."

The study is one example of the potential impact that health IT could have on cost and quality improvement.