Study: EMR ROI Stronger In Low-Income Setting

Posted on November 23, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Well,  here’s some information which caught my eye right away. According to a new study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, EMRs can provide a good return on investment for hospitals located in low-income areas.

In the study, researchers studied the what happened when a tertiary hospital in Malawi implemented an enterprise- wide EMR system.  The felt it was important to evaluate an EMR implementation in a low-income area such as this, the authors noted, because such hospitals face obstacles unlike those in more prosperous areas, such as marked supply and staff shortages, which might change the effect of such a system.

To examine the impact of the EMR, researchers looked at three areas: length of stay at the facility, transcription times and lab use.  The hospital saved an estimated $284,395 per year in U.S. dollars. By the third year of operation, the EMR  started generating a positive ROI, and by five years, it provided net benefit of $613,681, according to FierceEMR.

This is an inspiring study for those who hope to see EMR success stories, as until recently, there’s been little if any information to suggest that EMRs can offer a substantial savings on operations, much less help to generate a profit.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that hospitals aren’t generating savings or even profits by implementing an EMR.  As we noted in a previous story, few hospitals are planning for and implementing EMR ROI measures early in the game, according to a recent study from Beacon Partners.

If hospitals don’t dig in and integrate EMR ROI measurements into their strategic planning, it’s not surprising that they aren’t getting the fullest picture of what their systems are delivering. Backward-looking measurements aren’t likely to do as much as measurements built on a hospital’ls entire vision for success. Let’s see what happens when hospitals focus on ROI as a top-of-mind item going forward.