Implementing an electronic health record system provides a good return on investment for hospitals in low-income areas, according to a case study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Information Association. The researchers studied the implementation of a hospital-wide EHR in a tertiary facility in Malawi, a nation in southeast Africa.
They noted that it was especially important to evaluate EHRs in low-income settings, because such hospitals suffer from additional problems, such as staff and supply shortages, which affect how fully the benefits of an EHR are realized They evaluated only three areas of impact: the length of stay, transcription times and lab use.
The estimated cost savings found in those three areas totaled $284,395 in U.S. dollars per year. When compared with the costs of installing and sustaining the EHR system, the hospital experienced a net financial gain by the third year of the EHR's operation. Over five years, the estimated net benefit was $613,681.
"EMR can have financial, in addition to clinical, benefits in low-income settings," the researchers said. "These results suggest that the dialogue surrounding EMR in low-income settings should focus on how, rather than whether, to make these investments."
Other studies on the ROI of EHRs have had varying results, often based on the variables involved. Simply owning an EHR does not provide a good ROI, while lack of research before purchase and inadequate training also adversely affect positive returns seen by providers.