Healthcare execs: EHR return-on-investment measurement should start earlier

Healthcare executives aren't happy with their organizations' efforts to determine return on investment (ROI) of electronic health records systems and say the process should have started earlier, according to a new report from Beacon Partners.

The report is based on a survey of more than 300 healthcare leaders conducted over the summer regarding clinical system performance measures and the resulting ROI, the consultancy announced this week.

Though EHR systems are among the biggest IT investments health organizations make, just 40 percent of respondents to the survey said they were using performance measures for their systems, and only 36 percent were satisfied with the extent to which the data has been used to measure the value brought to their organizations.

The report authors found it interesting that 32 percent of respondents said performance measures were added after implementation--not in the planning phase--in at least one patient care area.

"Often, the limited resources and hurried deadlines associated with EMR implementation preclude a thoughtful, strategic analysis of expected value for the substantial sums invested in clinical IT," the authors wrote.

Fifty-one percent said clinical system performance measures should have been implemented sooner, indicating "there is an urgency," the authors wrote, to make this part of the planning process.

For those with quality measures in place, quality management (40 percent) and IT departments (31 percent) usually were responsible for collecting, analyzing and reporting the data. That made it not surprising that the results most often were used for quality-management initiatives.

After implementation, 78 percent of organizations collected feedback from physicians and nurses to measure user satisfaction. Sixty percent used that data to plan system enhancements and improvements, while 55 percent used it to determine training and/or support needs.

Efforts to determine ROI have frustrated health efforts from accountable care organizations to mHealth initiatives, though doing so is considered vital to their continued support. It was central to the recent arguments of two healthcare academics who recently proclaimed in the Wall Street Journal that electronic health records don't actually reduce healthcare costs or improve patient care.

To learn more:
- download the free report
- read the announcement