Why health execs don't understand the ROI of HIT

By Jeff Rowe
10:40 AM

A new report finds that many healthcare executives are dissatisfied with their organization’s efforts to determine the return on investment (ROI) on recently installed EHR systems.

Released by Beacon Partners, a healthcare management consulting firm, the results are based on a survey of more than 300 exeutives.  According to the report, only 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 their organizations had been measuring overall ROI.

In a release accompanying the report, Alan Cudney, Executive Consultant at Beacon Partners, explained, “Our primary goal in conducting this survey was to get a better understanding of how healthcare organizations – including multi-hospital systems, community hospitals, and academic medical centers feel about their organization’s efforts to measure the value obtained from investments in healthcare information technology.”

[See also: Top 12 reasons health providers overpay for HIT]

The report noted that 48 percent of respondents said their performance measures were “determined during the planning stages of EMR implementation,” but also that “performance measures were implemented post-EMR implementation in at least one patient care area 32 percent of the time.”

Interestingly, the survey found that 76 percent of organizations are “at or above Stage 3 for IT deployment” according to the HIMSS EMR Adoption Model. In other words, a significant majority of healthcare organizations are moving to new health IT, but not enough are figuring out whether they’re getting their money’s worth.

So here’s our question: In the various federally-funded technical support programs, most notably the RECs, how much focus, if any, has been put on helping healthcare organizations determine the ROI on their health IT investments?

If little or none, then it seems fair to suggest policymakers are missing an opportunity. After all, healthcare executives are paid to have an eye for the bottom line. So even as they provide the direct technical expertise for systems implementation, support organizations might also want to take steps to ensure that providers making the switch are up to speed sooner, rather than later, on how to determine what they’re getting, in financial terms, for their investment.

Assuming a good ROI can be demonstrated, that’s bound to build necessary support for the digital transition.