ROI Calculators For Hospital EMRs: Worth Using?

Posted on August 24, 2011 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or

If you’re a hospital IT executive, you may just be slogging through your EMR/EHR installation at the moment and hoping to hit Meaningful Use deadlines.  Sure, you wouldn’t mind if your system generated a return on investment, but if you’re like most of your colleagues, that’s the least of your worries.

According to some folks out there, though, all you need to do is zip through a formula — pre-baked by outsiders who’ve never visited your facility — and calculate pretty accurately how much you’ll save on operating costs once your system is in place. I’m talking about sites like these, most of which actually aren’t tied to one vendor’s sales pitch:

The truth is, there seems to be a lot of careful thought behind these calculators. And though one size never fits all, my bet is that you might glean something from them.

That being said, I think there’s a reason that HIMSS seems to have officially gotten out of the ROI estimation game for EMRs/EHRs.  ROI is a political football, after all. Vendors in any enterprise software niche like to toss out huge ROI numbers and short break-even times. EMR/EHR vendors aren’t any different.

Given all of the variables involved, I’m not sure it’s worth accepting anyone’s estimate of how much you can save — or what it will really cost — when you implement your EMR/EHR. But I could be too cynical. What do you think?