Is there an ROI for Health IT? It depends.

One of the most frequently and hotly debated questions that I encounter in my professional life is whether health IT offers a measurable return on investment (ROI). Various studies and opinion pieces have addressed this question but no clear consensus has emerged. Maybe there is no single answer. Perhaps the answer is: “It depends.”

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3 responses to “Is there an ROI for Health IT? It depends.

  1. @Cascadia aka Sherry Reynolds

    In many of the clinics and systems that were early adopters of health IT it was really only when you combined the technology with workflow redesign that you you started to see the real benefits. Including the patients workflows was when it becomes transformational though.

    For example at Group Health (over 630,000 members in the PNW) they have had an EHR for almost 10 years now and the medical home model for 3 or 4. Now 30% to 50% of all primary care contacts happen via email or telephone encounters – you can’t do that without the tech but it required changes in workflows, processes and would have required payment changes as well if it wasn’t an integrated system.

    Since the current rush for MU $ is driving many implementations we are often seeing the tech go in without this type of optimization, especially in the smaller doc offices.

  2. Jonathan Marcus

    Nice post Mike. Point well taken. Understanding that processes and procedures need to be integrated with and optimized to EMR is a good paradigm to be guided by.

    However, in Canada (and I’m sure the US as well) there are so many roadblocks to using such advice not the least of which are ergonomically poorly designed EMRs. I used Appletree’s EMR and found it very cumbersome and slow, particularly the prescription writer. That’s not to say that the rest of the bunch of systems are any better. The fact that EMRs are not connected with the rest of the patient’s health record is another barrier. Much of the work of an office therefore involves paper that needs to be scanned to the EMR.

    The benefits of EMR will only be seen when data flows seamlessly throughout the system such that the EMR evolves into simply an operating system with which to view and contribute to the EHR, which is accessible from any EMR. I don’t envision this happening before at least another decade… a decade where patients and doctors will continue to muck around stuck in bad products and a system lurching around under the effects of government whims/ test projects and health care provider inertia and turf protection.

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