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Study: ROI on Electronic Patient Records

The business value of information technology is a topic that is cause for a lot of discussion. What is the ROI (Return On Investment), for example, for adopting Electronic Medical Records (EMR)? There are skeptics and true believers.

The true believers say that computerized patient records will save the U.S. healthcare system up to $100 billion a year. The skeptics respond by saying EMRs have little impact on the cost – or quality – of healthcare, and they now have a new study to back up their claims. The research, conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, compared 3,000 hospitals and found that little benefit has been seen so far in electronic patient records.

There were marginal differences, for example, in reducing hospital length of stays for hospitals with full-blown digital record systems (5.5 days) and those without (5.7). So installing technology didn’t necessarily equate for gains in cost containment and quality.

The Obama administration has set aside $19 billion in government incentives to accelerate the adoption of EMRs, and upon hearing this latest report, Federal experts responded by saying that the full capacities of electronic health records has yet to be tapped, and the payoff won’t show up for another few years. But study researchers say that they did look at both mature, high-performing systems as well as hospitals just beginning to adopt technology, for a broad, nationwide look.

HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) says that the usability of EMRs – user friendliness, intuitiveness, simplicity, naturalness of use – is one of the key factors holding back EMR adoption.

What’s your take on EMRs? Are you a skeptic or true believer?

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