Getting Value from Health IT Investments: There are Doubters

For the past several years Longwoods Publishing has hosted a monthly seminar series called “Breakfast with the Chiefs”.  This series features noted eHealth and healthcare thought leaders sharing their views on a wide variety of topics.  Longwoods recently added a webcast component and I attended yesterday’s webcast entitled “Getting Value from Health IT Investments: There are Doubters”.   Dave Garets from HIMSS Analytics and James Hereford, Executive VP with Group Health in the US, explored the validity and the implications of the recently released Harvard Medical School study that found that (a) more computerized facilities often had higher total costs and (b) the facilities that increased their level of computerization the fastest experienced more rapid administrative costs.

Mr. Garets pointed out that the study, which used data from HIMSS Analytics and the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), focused on the 2005 fiscal year since that was the year for which it had the most comprehensive data.  Mr. Garets pointed that four years is a long time in the IT industry and used HIMSS Analytics to clearly show that most hospitals were in the very early stages of implementing electronic patient records in 2005. Hence, he questioned whether meaningful conclusions regarding the benefits of using electronic patient records could be made based on 2005 data.  Further, he suggested that IT is an investment that will incur upfront costs for downstream benefits, benefits that likely were only starting to be realized in 2005.

Mr. Hereford offered practical advice regarding implementation of a comprehensive electronic patient record system.  One of his more notable pieces of advice was the need for ongoing change management.  He stated that his organization has learned that once a system is implemented it is necessary to continue to train and show people how to accomplish their day to day work using the new system.  As people become more familiar with a system they are more open to exploring new functionality or new ways of using the system to do different things.

Kudos to Longwoods for making this series available by webcast.   Doing so shows that they are prepared to “walk the talk” and demonstrate how technology can help build community and share lessons learned.


2 responses to “Getting Value from Health IT Investments: There are Doubters

  1. The value of the electronic health record is a hotly debated issue. At the breakfast, Dr. Tracy Monk, Faculty Lead UBC Center for Relationship Based Care and Clinical Asst Prof UBC Dept Family Practice, pointed out this paper: Tensions and Paradoxes in Electronic Patient Record Research: A Systematic Literature Review The Milbank Quarterly, Vol. 87, No. 4, 2009 (pp. 729–788)

    P Greenhalgh: Lead on the evaluation of components of the UK National Programme for IT.

    It reports results of a systematic literature review of 24 previous systematic reviews and 94 further primary studies.

    A quick search of “benefits electronic health records” on will provide readers with a long list of related reading.

    Dave Garets pointed out, however, that the speed of adoption means that many (even recent) studies are out of date and the world of eHR changes very quickly. He also asks the questions: “Would you really want to do without eHR?”

    And James Hereford started his discussion saying that we cannot lose site of the system-wide impact of EHR and that can provide a whole new perspective.

    The full video of this discussion will be available in a few days. I’ll let you know. Or check the home page.

    Anton Hart, Longwoods

  2. Thanks, Anton, for the additional insight and for making the Breakfast with the Chief series available via webcast.


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