EMRs help to improve 'people, planet, profits'

You want an EMR, but you also want a return on your investment. At least one non-healthcare pundit believes you should look past just the financial bottom line and see that EMRs can provide benefits for the "3 Ps" of sustainability--people, planet, profits.

A post on the Triple Pundit blog says that EMRs deliver on all three areas, with better patient care, a smaller environmental footprint and fewer write-offs of accounts receivable.

When she was a medical office manager, Linda Stotsky would have to call in handwritten prescription orders from doctors that didn't check for potentially harmful interactions, with no idea what the patient's insurance formulary would show, then often play phone tag with pharmacies and insurance companies. "All that is eliminated today, with access to an electronic record and practice management systems," Stotsky tells Triple Pundit.

Reimbursements come faster because of automated claims and online formulary checking, explains Stotsky, who now runs LSC Physician Business Growth Services. "We are improving patient outcomes...because the patient has better quality care because of the data, the sharing of data," she adds.

On the environmental front, Swedish Medical Center in Seattle digitized 3 million pages of patient records through 2008 when it went electronic, and no longer churns out massive quantities of paper documents.

As for profits, well, even with better cash-flow management, return on investment remains elusive. "But, in five years, when healthcare organizations will be penalized if they have no 'meaningful use' of EMRs and start getting fined, perhaps the cost-savings will come," according to Triple Pundit Jennifer Hicks.

Hicks adds a fourth "P," namely panacea. EMRs are not that. Systems can slow physicians down and frequently aren't compatible with one another. "But, perhaps these are growing pains as Naomi Freundlich, a patient advocate at the Century Foundation, suggests."

For now, though, we'll have to settle for the "people" and "planet" elements, with safer care and less wasted paper. That's not a bad start.

For more:
- take a look at this Triple Pundit analysis