3 Ways to Increase Your Hospital Profitability with Digital Chest Drainage Systems


If you are looking to increase profitability and save costs in your hospital, look no further than your selection of chest drainage systems. Hidden costs associated with traditional underwater seal drains may actually be draining precious revenue from your institution, patient by patient.

Uncovering those costs, and implementing strategies to reduce them, can improve your revenue cycle management. Moreover, the good news is that digital chest drainage systems provide potential cost savings benefits in key areas where analog systems may be costing you dearly.

How do digital chest drainage systems increase hospital profitability?

1.  Lower overall costs per patient

Numerous studies, including a recent meta-analysis of 10 clinical trials in over 1200 patients, have demonstrated the superiority of digital chest drainage systems over older underwater seal drains in 3 key clinical areas:1,2

  • Significantly shorter chest tube durations
  • Shorter durations of air leak
  • Significantly shorter length of hospital stays

Each of these has potential implications for cost-effective care. With shorter air leak and chest tube durations, hospitals can:

  • Mobilize patients for discharge quicker
  • Free up beds for new patients
  • Care for a higher volume of patients

Overall costs per patient may likewise be lower, due in part to the shorter length of hospital stay. Shortening a patient’s length of stay by as little as 1 day has the potential to “more than make up for” up-front costs with digital systems, according to one study.3

2.  Improved operational efficiencies

The subjective interpretation of air leaks with underwater seal drains can hinder implementation of care protocols related to chest tube management. Inter-observer variability of bubbling in the water chamber can lead some care members to see an air leak where others do not (read more in our article about "Advancing patient recovery with digital chest drainage". Such uncertainty can impede the smooth implementation of care protocols.

Digital systems, on the other hand, help care teams establish protocols to standardize patient management and improve efficiencies.3-5 Objective air leak data replaces subjective observer interpretation, helping clinicians make faster, more informed decisions. This allows for the smooth implementation of protocols that advance care and keep teams operating at peak efficiency. Less time wasted on operational inefficiencies means more money saved.

3.  Reduced staff training costs

The objective recording of data with digital systems offers another potential benefit over subjective interpretation with underwater seal drains. The multidisciplinary staff providing postsurgical care has different levels of expertise, experience, and training—including with chest drains. The objective nature of digital systems can eradicate these differences. Diverse care team members—such as surgeons, physicians, residents, and nurses—can all accurately assess air leaks and other critical data points regardless of knowledge level.6-8

Likewise, smooth implementation of care protocols with digital systems can help reduce staff training time. This helps hospitals avoid unnecessary training costs and puts team members on a faster track to understanding the system.3

Advanced toward improved profitability for your hospital by learning about Thopaz+


Insist on a digital chest drainage system with evidence to back it up

An abundance of clinical evidence today points to the potential cost-saving and efficiency-enhancing benefits of choosing a digital chest drainage system over an underwater seal drain. However, when selecting such a system, make sure it has specific evidence to back up its performance.

Endorsed by both NICE* and ERAS**, Thopaz+ by Medela has a proven track record of success in those areas with the most potential to impact your hospital’s bottom line. Specifically, Thopaz+ significantly shortened:2

  • Air leak duration versus analog (1.0 and 2.2 days, respectively; p=0.001).
  • Chest tube duration versus analog (3.6 and 4.7 days, respectively; p=0.0001).
  • Postoperative length of stay versus analog (4.6 and 5.6 days, respectively; p<0.0001).

And the performance of Thopaz+ is equally strong in achieving the kind of cost-savings you need to increase hospital profitability: 9

  • Allowed for cost savings of up to $703 (£550) per patient.
  • Estimated annual cost savings of £8.5 million per year in England.
  • Reduced rates of patient complications.
  • More direct and user friendly versus analog system.

NICE recommends Thopaz+ portable digital chest drainage device

NICE (an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health in the UK) recommends Thopaz+ for managing chest drains.

  • Thopaz+ reduces chest tube duration and length of stay (in hospital).
  • Improves safety for people with chest drains.
  • Improves clinical decision-making through continuous objective monitoring of air leaks and fluid loss.
  • Increases patient mobility.
  • Clinical staff find Thopaz+ more convenient and easier to use than conventional chest drainage systems.
icon savings

Allows for cost savings of up to £550 ($703) per patient

saving time icon

Shortens hospital stay due to shorter chest tube duration

icon thopaz

Improves safety for patients with chest drains

*NICE=The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health in the UK. Add link here

**ERAS=Enhanced Recovery After Surgery, evidence-based guidelines designed to help optimize outcomes following surgery.


1. Zhou J, Lyu M, Chen N, et al. Digital chest drainage is better than traditional chest drainage following pulmonary surgery : a meta-anlayis. Eur Jour of Cardio-Thorac Surg 2018 ;54 :634-642.

2. Pompili C, Detterbeck F, Papagiannopoulos K, et al. Multicenter International Randomized Comparison of Objective and Subjective Outcomes Between Electronic and Traditional Chest Drainage Systems. Ann Thorac Surg 2014;98:490-7. 3. Brunelli A, Salati M, Refai M, et al. Evaluation of a new chest tube removal protocol using digital air leak monitoring after lobectomy: a prospective randomized trial. Eur Jour of Cardio-Thorac Surg 2010;37 :56-60.

4. Bertolaccini L, Rizzardi G, Filice MJ, Terzi A. ‘Six Sigma’ approach – an objective strategy in digital assessment of postoperative air leaks: a prospective randomised study. Eur Jour of Cardio-Thorac Surg 2010;39 :e128-e132.

5. French D, Plourde M, Henteleff H, et al. Optimal management of postoperative parenchymal air leaks. J Thorac Dis 2018;10:S3789-S3798.

6. Baringer K, Talbert S. Chest drainage systems and management of air leaks after a pulmonary resection. J Thorac Dis 2017 ;9(12):5399-5403.

7. McGuire A, Petrcich W, Maziak D, et al. Digital versus analogue pleural drainage phase 1: prospective evaluation of interobserver reliability in the assessment of pulmonary air leaks. Interactive CardioVascular and Thoracic Surgery 2015;21:403-408.

8. Miller D, Helms G, Mayfield W. Digital drainage system reduces hospitalization after video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery lung resection. 2016 Ann Thorac Surg;102:955-61.

9. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/MTG37