Universal health IT pain points include elusive ROI

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In Boston, CIO John Halamka ponders the likelihood of earning a return on investment on health IT projects.

After traveling around the world, John Halamka concluded that health IT pain points are the same wherever you go.

England, China and even Denmark, known for its healthcare technology savvy and innovation, are rethinking strategies and are not particularly happy with past progress, he wrote in a blog post on KevinMD.

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The CIO of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center offered up five universal lessons, including this reality check: Healthcare technology investments may never earn a financial return.

“In my 20 years of traveling the world, I’ve seen healthcare IT projects that improve quality in measurable ways—reducing readmissions, enhancing medication compliance and improving processes,” he wrote. “However, I’ve never experienced an IT project that reduces costs when all expenses of implementation and operation are accounted for.”

RELATED: Editor's Corner: Too soon to tell if EHRs provide good ROI

But as health IT matures, will healthcare organizations start to reap financial benefits in addition to clinical ones?

Horizon Family Medical Group said it not only improved workflow, but also netted a positive ROI after implementing a new EHR system, FierceHealthIT recently reported.

HFMG paid "in the mid six figure range" for its initial EHR implementation, most of which was "offset by Meaningful Use dollars initially," according to a case study. Begun in 2012, it captured revenues in “the seven figure range” within a few years.

Recent studies suggest that such rewards could be within reach for other organizations.

For example, one study found EHRs can increase charge capture. By using EHR automation and enhanced coding capability, pediatric primary care physicians saw an $11.49 increase on average, per-patient collections and an $11.09 increase on average, per-patient charges, as well as an improvement in collection ratios. 

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