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How to Train Business Office Staff to Perform Like ROI (Release of Information) Pros – HIM Scene

The following is a HIM Scene guest blog post by Mariela Twiggs, MS, RHIA, CHIP, FAHIMA, National Director of Motivation & Development at MRO.  This is the third blog in a three-part sponsored blog post series focused on the relationship between HIM departments and third-party payers. Each month, a different MRO expert will share insights on how to reduce payer-provider abrasion, protect information privacy and streamline the medical record release process during health plan or third-party commercial payer audits and reviews.

Millions of payer requests for medical records are sent to hospital business offices every day. Business office staff are often tasked with pulling, compiling and sending Protected Health Information (PHI) to meet these requests.

Many payer requests are part of treatment, payment and operations (TPO) according to HIPAA. Payer requests are the “P” in TPO. However, others such as Medicaid assistance applications and disability requests are not covered under TPO. Knowing the difference and managing each request with the upmost regard for patient privacy is the focus of this month’s HIM Scene post.

Business Office Disclosures: Haste Makes Breach

Time is of the essence in the business office. Staff are focused on submitting claims, appealing denials or responding to audits and reviews as covered in last month’s HIM Scene. During the rush to get claims paid, key steps in the Release of Information (ROI) process may be skipped, compromised or mistakenly omitted. It’s during these situations that privacy concerns arise and PHI breaches may occur.

To ensure business office disclosures are kept safe and secure, organizations should train their financial staff using the same information, curriculum and courses presented to Health Information Management (HIM) teams. The ROI steps are the same. And disclosure management processes must be consistent to reduce breach risk. Here are five key areas of disclosure management to cover with your business office employees.

1. ROI and HIPAA Basics

Ensure employees understand the definition of  HIPAA, the privacy rule, ARRA HITECH Omnibus, PHI and differences between federal versus state law. Each state is different and laws apply to where the care was given, not where the organization is headquartered. This is an important distinction for central business offices processing requests for care locations across several states.

Also emphasize which types of payer requests fall under HIPAA’s TPO exemption and which don’t. For those that aren’t considered disclosures for TPO, a patient authorization is required.

Another important topic to cover is the Health and Human Services (HHS) minimum necessary guidance under the HIPAA privacy rule. This guidance helps organizations determine what information can be used, disclosed or requested by payers for a particular purpose. Payers don’t need entire copies of records. They only need specific documents depending on the type of request. By helping business office staff thoroughly understand and apply the minimum necessary guidance, organizations tighten privacy compliance and mitigate breach risk.

2. The Medical Record

Define the various components of the medical record to business office staff. These include common documents, various types of encounters, and properly documented corrections and amendments.

3. Confidentiality and Legal Issues

Outline the legal health record concept and what it includes for your organization. All the various confidentiality and legal issues should also be fully explained. For example, with regard to state subpoena laws, one needs to know quash periods and whether special documentation must be provided. Louisiana requires affidavits while Virginia requires certifications from attorneys saying a notice of patient objection was not received.

4. Types of Requests

List all the various types of requests that might be received in the business office. For each category, differentiate which are part of TPO and which are not. Those that fall outside of TPO require a patient authorization and should be forwarded to HIM for processing. The types of requests to discuss with the business office include:

  • Treatment requests
  • Internal requests
  • Patient requests
  • Government agency requests
  • Disability requests
  • Insurance requests
  • Post-payment audit requests
  • Attorney requests
  • Law enforcement requests
  • Court orders
  • Subpoenas
  • Research requests

5. Sensitive Records and Other Special Situations

Identify and describe specific disclosure management practices related to sensitive records. These cases can include information on genetics, HIV/AIDS, STDs, mental/behavioral health, substance abuse and other sensitive issues. There are also special situations surrounding disclosures for deceased patients and minors. Sensitive records require special handling. Complex federal and state legal issues may be involved with these cases and business office personnel should be aware of them.

With so many details to know, many hospitals and health systems are opting to centralize all disclosures within the HIM department or with a single outsourced ROI vendor.

Make the Case for Centralized ROI

There is a national trend toward centralized disclosure management versus each department handling information requests internally. Beyond the business office, requests are also frequently received in the radiology department, clinical locations, human resources, physician practices, nursing units and HIM.

Maintaining oversight and privacy compliance for all these areas is an arduous task—and opens the door for breach risk. If you are in doubt about the ability of business office or other staff to properly and securely process requests, a centralized ROI model may be your organization’s safest approach.

About Mariela Twiggs
In her role as Director of Motivation and Development, Twiggs leads MRO’s internal motivational efforts and manages MRO Academy, a rigorous and required online educational and testing platform for all employees, which is comprehensive and current with external developments and regulations. Prior to joining MRO, she was CEO of MTT Enterprises, LLC, a Release of Information business. Previously, she worked as a Health Information Management (HIM) Director. Twiggs is the past president of the Association of Health Information Outsourcing Services (AHIOS), Louisiana Health Information Management Association (LHIMA) and Greater New Orleans Health Information Management (GNOHIMA); a fellow of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA); recipient of LHIMA’s Distinguished Member & Career Achievement Awards; past treasurer of LHIMA and GNOHIMA; and serves on the advisory board of the Delgado Community College Health Information Technology Program. Twiggs holds a B.S. in Medical Record Administration and a Master’s Degree in Health Care Administration. She is also certified in healthcare privacy (CHP) and is a Certified Document Imaging Architect (CDIA+) with expertise in electronic document management.

If you’d like to receive future HIM posts in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

September 27, 2017 I Written By

ROI in the Business Office: Why HIM Should Keep a Watchful Eye – HIM Scene

The following is a HIM Scene guest blog post by Lula Jensen, MBA, RHIA, CCS, Director of Product Management at MRO.  This is the second blog in a three-part sponsored blog post series focused on the relationship between HIM departments and third-party payers. Each month, a different MRO expert will share insights on how to reduce payer-provider abrasion, protect information privacy and streamline the medical record release process during health plan or third-party commercial payer audits and reviews.

According to most business office staff, pulling information and releasing medical record documentation to payers is a necessary evil to get claims paid and reduce accounts receivables. It is not their core competency.

Whether the request is unsolicited or solicited by the payer, time required to compile information and respond wreaks havoc on business office productivity. Also in efforts to meet payer deadlines and expedite claims, human mistakes can be made. Incorrect patient information might slip through the cracks.

Despite concerns, many business office directors prefer that payer disclosures be sent out by their own business staff—versus by the HIM department. If your organization follows that practice, this HIM Scene blog post is for you.

Two Types of Business Office Requests

There are two instances of business office Release of Information (ROI) to know: unsolicited and solicited requests. The unsolicited process takes place when medical documentation containing all the additional information pertinent to the service being billed is submitted proactively by the provider with the initial claim. The solicited process occurs when the original claim is sent without additional supporting medical record documentation and the payer subsequently (during the adjudication process) determines that additional information is needed. The payer then places a request for the additional documentation from the provider.

Unsolicited Releases During Claims Processing

The purpose of releasing information during claims processing is to expedite payment. In an effort to get the claim paid faster, medical records are sent proactively with the claim. This is especially true for high-dollar claims, payer policies, readmissions within 30 days and the published Office of Inspector General (OIG) Work Plan.

Sounds like a good intention with the organization’s best financial interests in mind. However, three concerns arise when business offices send medical record documentation to payers—versus having HIM professionals take charge.

  1. Business office staff may not know which parts of the medical record will be required to support the claim. Often, the entire chart is sent—a process that is not practical for high-dollar or long-length-of-stay cases.
  2. Sending the entire record is also not compliant with HIPAA’s Minimum Necessary Standard. By sending too much information, hospitals are at risk for HIPAA breach.
  3. Upon receipt of prepay documentation, the payer’s staff logs each record received, scans or otherwise digitizes the documents, and incorporates them into their own electronic systems. This creates a huge administrative burden on payers.

Similar challenges ensue with solicited payer medical record requests that occur during the adjudication process or retrospective reviews.

Business Office Disclosures for Payer Audits and Reviews

There has been significant uptick in payer audits and reviews, a topic that was covered by HIM Scene last month. This includes governmental and third-party commercial. According to one central business office director at an MRO client site, “The pull lists for payer audits and reviews keep getting longer and the piles of medical records to send keep getting higher.”

To reduce administrative burdens with payers, some organizations are allowing payers direct access to their EMRs and EHRs to obtain the required information during audits and reviews. While this process may lighten the load for billing personnel, it is laden with additional privacy risks.

Business office personnel complain about the travails of responding to all the various requests for records. However, a significant number of business office directors still insist on owning the ROI process for payer audits and reviews. When this is the case, there are several important steps for HIM directors to consider.

Three Steps for HIM: Educate, Track and Talk

For both types of business office disclosures, it is important to educate billing staff about the implications of a HIPAA breach and privacy risks listed above. Establish an organization-wide standard for ROI to keep PHI safe during all types of business office disclosures. Educating all personnel involved in business office ROI (whether for claims processing, audits or reviews) helps relieve frustration with the record release process.

Billers should also track which specific records, and what sections of each, were sent. By documenting and then reviewing this information, organizations gain valuable knowledge about payer trends—insights that can be used to prevent denials and negotiate more favorable terms for payer contracts.

Collaborate with privacy and the business office to determine which release information to track. Then establish a common database or software application to document each release to payers. Here are four ways to make the most of business office ROI tracking data:

  • Look for patterns in what payers are requesting. Any trends in payer request activity could offer opportunities for provider improvement.
  • Identify risk. Analytics can help business offices detect weaknesses in the revenue cycle, involving coding, documentation or other internal processes.
  • Educate coders, biller, collectors, physicians, etc. on payer trends and how collaboration can promote accurate, complete billing for services rendered and support a claim via medical record documentation.
  • Use data analysis. When payer contract negotiations arise, use payer trend statistics to your advantage in the next round of negotiations.

Talk with local payers and stay updated on policy changes related to claims processing, audits and retrospective reviews. Open communication with each payer is recommended to ensure records are sent in the most secure way possible. Communication with payers also reduces phone tag and minimizes payer-provider abrasion.

Finally, due to the importance of collecting medical record documentation, health plans are willing to pay for records. Business offices and HIM departments fulfilling these requests are encouraged to discuss and pursue reimbursement from payers.

About Lula Jensen

In her role as Director of Product Management for MRO, Jensen drives product enhancements and new product initiatives to ensure MRO’s suite of solutions enable the highest levels of client success and end-user satisfaction. She has more than 15 years of experience in healthcare, focusing on Health Information Management (HIM), Revenue Cycle Management, analytics, software development and consulting. In addition to holding product management roles at McKesson Health Solutions and CIOX Health, she also served as Revenue Cycle Manager at Fox Chase Cancer Center and taught a course on ICD-9 CM Coding and Reimbursement at Bucks County Community College. Jensen is an active member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and Pennsylvania Health Information Management Association (PHIMA); she is a 2005 PHIMA Scholar Award recipient. Jensen holds a B.S. in HIM from Temple University and an M.B.A. in Health Care Administration from Holy Family University.

If you’d like to receive future HIM posts in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

August 16, 2017 I Written By

Deriving ROI from Data-driven EMR Clinical Optimization

The following is a guest blog post by Justin Campbell Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions.  Learn more about their work by downloading their EHR Clinical Optimization Whitepaper.

Resistance to change is natural. People are uncomfortable with it. Organizations are frightened by it. Acceptance of healthcare information technology took a long time and even in these first two decades of a new century, despite incentives such as the Meaningful Use program, and promises of increased efficiency, implementation of Electronic Medical Records has been a bumpy ride.

Between 2008 and 2016, healthcare organizations spent more than 20 billion dollars adopting electronic health record systems. Many different approaches were applied. Many HCOs decided to act quickly, using what we now call a “Big Bang” fix. Installations of generic systems were in place but users of the new systems were unhappy. In 2013, with the process well underway throughout the nation, two thirds of doctors polled said they used EMR systems unwillingly, with 87% of these aggravated physicians complaining about usability and 92% of physician practices complaining that their EMRs were “clunky” and/or too difficult. Specifically, only 35% reported that it had become easier to respond to patient issues, one third said they could not more effectively manage patient treatment plans, and despite the belief that technology would permit caregivers to spend more time with their patients, only 10% said this was occurring.

The medical side was not alone in expressing dissatisfaction. Hospital executive and IT employees who had replaced their Electronic Health Record systems reported higher than expected costs, layoffs, declining revenues, disenfranchised clinicians and serious misgivings about the benefits gained:

  • 14% of all hospitals that replaced their original EMR since 2011 were losing inpatient revenue at a pace that would not support the total cost of their replacement EMR
  • 87% of hospitals facing financial challenges now regret the decision to change systems
  • 63% of executive-level respondents admitted they feared losing their jobs as a result of the EMR replacement process
  • 66% of the system users believe that interoperability and patient data exchange functionality have declined.

Not all reviews are negative. There is strong support and appreciation for EMRs in some Healthcare Delivery Organizations (HDOs) who believe well-designed EMRs save time and support clinical workflows. But, there is no escaping the majority sentiment: EMRs are not designed for the way providers think and work.

Today, most HDOs are at a crossroads. They can start over with a new EMR or optimize the one they have. The case for a do-over is supported by sub-standard vendor support for their existing systems and the increase in mergers and acquisitions, which drive system consolidation. One fifth of large practices and clinics report they intend to replace their EMRs and studies show that the EMR replacement markets will likely grow at an annual rate of 7%-8% over the next five years. The case for the status quo is made primarily by the HCOs that do not have the financial resources to undertake EMR replacement.

All options face the same key inter-related questions: how to generate additional margin? How to maximize return on technology investments? Which path will best serve the HCO, caregivers and patients?

This is a bit of vicious circle. HCOs are cash-strapped and the transition from fee for service to value-based care exerts downward cost pressures, exacerbating the problem. But patchwork fixes have not resolved that problem. Alternatively, some attempted to do too much too quickly and became frustrated because they lacked the depth of experience and knowledge to perform remediation. And, as KPMG concluded after studying the problem, “The length of time to resolve the issues increased and frustrations mounted as clinical, senior management, IT and human resources staff found themselves spinning their wheels.”

Like a patient being pressured to swallow medicine, HDOs are beginning to accept their situation. According to a recent survey conducted by KPMG in collaboration with CHIME, 38% of 112 respondents ranked EMR/EMR optimization as their top choice for the majority of their capital investments for the next three years.

EMR adoption is already approaching maximum levels. Consequently, healthcare delivery organizations have begun to shift their EMR strategies from short-term clinical documentation data repositories to long-term assets with substantial functionality in support of clinical decisions, health maintenance planning and quality reporting. They are coming to see their IT investments as platforms rather than limited systems of record or glorified data banks. In short, they now understand that the capture of information is only the most basic attribute of an EMR, and that instead, the EMR in which they invest can be flexible and extensible, capable of adopting emerging technologies that are driving insights to the point of care.

Assess opportunity, formulate strategy, improve usability & derive additional ROI & by downloading our EHR Clinical Optimization Whitepaper.

About Justin Campbell
Justin is Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions. He is responsible for market intelligence, segmentation, business and market development and competitive strategy. Justin has been consulting in Health IT for over 10 years, guiding clients in the implementation, integration and optimization of clinical systems. He has been on the front lines of system replacement and data migration and is passionate about advancing interoperability in healthcare and harnessing analytical insights to realize improvements in patient care. Justin can be found on Twitter at @TJustinCampbell and LinkedIn.

About Galen Healthcare Solutions

Galen Healthcare Solutions is an award-winning, #1 in KLAS healthcare IT technical & professional services and solutions company providing high-skilled, cross-platform expertise and proud sponsor of the Tackling EHR & EMR Transition Series. For over a decade, Galen has partnered with more than 300 specialty practices, hospitals, health information exchanges, health systems and integrated delivery networks to provide high-quality, expert level IT consulting services including strategy, optimization, data migration, project management, and interoperability. Galen also delivers a suite of fully integrated products that enhance, automate, and simplify the access and use of clinical patient data within those systems to improve cost-efficiency and quality outcomes. For more information, visit Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

June 28, 2017 I Written By

Measuring Population Health ROI Is Still Tricky

Over the past few years, health systems have made massive investments in population health management technology. Given the forces driving the investments are still present – or even closer at hand – there’s every reason to believe that they will continue.

That being said, health leaders are beginning to ask more questions about what they’re getting in return.  While systems may have subjected the initial investments to less scrutiny than usual, having accepted that they were critically necessary, many of these organizations are now trying to figure out what kind of return on investment they can expect to realize. In the process, some are finding out that even deciding what to measure is still somewhat tricky.

Many healthcare organizations started out with a sense that while investment returns on pop health management tech would take a while, they were in the knowable future. For example, according to a KPMG survey conducted in early 2015, 20 percent of respondents believed that returns on their investment in population health IT would materialize in one to two years, 36 percent expected to see ROI in three to four years and 29 percent were looking at a five+ year horizon.

At the time, though, many of the execs answering the survey questions were just getting started with pop health. Thirty-eight percent said their population health management capabilities were elementary-stage, 23 percent said they were in their infancy and 15 percent said such capabilities were non-existent, KPMG reported.

Since then, health systems and hospitals have found that measuring – much less realizing – returns generated by these investments can be complicated and uncertain. According to Dennis Weaver, MD, a senior consultant with the Advisory Board, one mistake many organizations make is evaluating ROI based solely on whether they’re doing well in their managed care contracts.

“They are trying to pay for all of the investment – the technology, care managers, operational changes, medical homes—all with the accountable payment bucket,” said Weaver, who spoke with Healthcare Informatics.

Other factors to consider

Dr. Weaver argues that healthcare organizations should take at least two other factors into account when evaluating pop health ROI, specifically reduction of leakage and unwarranted care variation. For example, cutting down on leakage – having patients go out of network – offers a 7 to 10 times greater revenue opportunity than meeting accountable care goals. Meanwhile, by reducing unwarranted variations in care and improving outcomes, organizations can see a 5 percent to 10 percent margin improvement, Weaver told the publication.

Of course, no one approach will hold true for every organization.  Bobbie Brown, senior vice president with HealthCatalyst, suggests taking a big-picture approach and drilling down into how specific technologies net out financially.

She recommends that health organizations start the investment analysis with broad strategic questions like “Does this investment help us grow?” and “Are we balancing risk and reward?” She also proposes that health leaders create a matrix which compares the cost/benefit ratio for individual components of the planned pop health program, such as remote monitoring and care management. Sometimes, putting things into a matrix makes it clear which approaches are likely to pay off, she notes.

Over time, it seems likely that healthcare leaders will probably come to a consensus on what elements to measure when sizing up their pop health investments, as with virtually every other major HIT expense. But in the interim, it seems that figuring out where to look for ROI is going to take more work.

May 24, 2017 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

Not So Far Far Away From Star Wars Medical Droids

Friday December 18th is the day that Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theatres. It carries with it the dreams of generations of fans. From old timers like me (who remember watching Star Wars: A New Hope in a converted opera house in 1977) to the new generation who grew up watching the prequels and the Clone Wars – everyone is looking forward to this new film.

As a fan, I thought it would be remiss of me if I didn’t write a blog using Star Wars as the theme this week.

One of the things that always struck me about Star Wars was the lack of doctors in the movies. Unlike the Star Trek universe where we had the lovable character of Dr. Leonard McCoy (Bones), you never really see a physician in Star Wars. Instead all the healing is done by droids.

In Empire Strikes Back, we are introduced to a medical droid that heals Luke Skywalker after his encounter with the abominable snowman-like Wampa on the frozen planet of Hoth. At the end of the movie we see other droids caring for Luke after he loses his hand after battling Darth Vader.

Back in the 80s when Empire Strikes Back was released these medical droids were pure science fiction. In 2015 medical robots are a reality and some are surprisingly similar to the ones depicted in the movie. Take for example the da Vinci Surgical Robot by Intuitive Surgical (on the left) which looks like a precursor version to the FX series of medical droids from Star Wars (on the right).

Da Vinci Xi Robot and Star Wars FX Medical Droid

I’ve never seen the da Vinci surgical robot, but the write-ups have been incredible. This robot allows surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgeries using the four finely controlled arms. The surgeon controls everything through a console. It is not hard to imagine that one day soon the surgeon performing the surgery may not be in the same hospital or even the same country as the robot itself – the ultimate in telemedicine!

Surgical robots are a hot area of healthcare innovation. Just last week Johnson & Johnson and Verily Life Sciences (formerly Google Life Sciences) got together to create Verb Surgical. According to the press release, “in the coming years, Verb Surgical aims to develop a comprehensive surgical solutions platform that will incorporate leading-edge robotic capabilities and best-in-class medical device technology for operating room professionals”.

As more companies enter this space, the faster these robots will evolve.

However, having articulating surgical robots only gets us part-way to a fully functional Start Wars medical droid. We have the body, but now we need the brains. That’s where IBM’s Watson comes in.

Watson is arguably the closest thing we currently have to artificial intelligence. IBM’s brainchild is able to analyze data and draw patterns/conclusions faster than any computer system that has ever existed. It is already capable of crunching through millions medical records and use that knowledge to help with cancer treatment. In pilots with several institutions, Watson is already assisting with diagnosis and treatment of disease.

It’s not hard to imagine that one day a Watson-like system will be combined with a surgical robot. Add in a little bit of advanced machine vision plus a few antimicrobial nanomaterials and all of a sudden you have the basics of a Star Wars medical droid.

The optimist in me believes it will happen in my lifetime. I only wish lightsabers and x-wing fighters weren’t so far far away.

Image Credit

Da Vinci Xi Robot – engadget

FX medial droid –

December 18, 2015 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

American Health Network Reduces Denial Management Time by 75 Percent, Realizes ROI of 200 Percent

Ever since I first attended HFMA’s ANI conference, I’ve been fascinated by the opportunities available in managing a hospitals revenue. There are so many areas where even a small change to your operations directly effect your bottom line. That’s the beauty of any revenue solution.

Thus, I was quite interested to read this whitepaper about American Health Networks experience reducing claim denials. American Health Networks realized an ROI of 200 percent and recovered $1.4 million by changing their denial management practices.

I especially like how American Health Networks chose to roll this out first as a pilot program to a small subset of doctors. Then, after evaluating the results they chose to roll it out to the whole organization. Far too often I see organizations try to go all in with a solution and then fail miserably. There’s a lot of value of rolling out any IT solution to a small set of engaged users before applying them to the whole organization. One of the biggest values of this is the pilot group of users becomes the product champions once you’re ready to roll it out to the whole organization.

There are a lot of places where revenue is figuratively leaking out of healthcare organizations. For many organizations, claim denials is one of those places. I’d love to hear what solutions people have implemented to address claim denials in their organizations.

August 29, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Only 40% of Hospital CIO’s measure ROI on Their EMR Implementations

Today, I stumbled upon this fascinating tweet about hospital EMR ROI. It’s from @dbtech_Ras:

Unfortunately the tweet doesn’t contain the source of their information, but the idea of EMR ROI is a very interesting and important topic. Should a hospital CIO be tracking the ROI of their EMR implementation? Are most hospital CIO’s tracking EMR ROI?

I would imagine many hospital CIOs aren’t tracking EMR ROI, because they see EMR as a necessary requirement of being a hospital today. Do they track the ROI of cleaning supplies? No. They just realize they need them and they try to manage the cost of the supplies as best they can. I think many are treating EMR in this same manner. They see EMR as a necessity regardless of ROI.

The interesting thing is that there are actually a lot of ways to measure an ROI for EMR software. None of them are perfect and they certainly leave out all the intangibles and long term benefits of EMR. For example, how do you measure an ROI on legibility of charts? That’s tough. It’s also hard to predict how having your charts electronic will enable you to be a better hospital 5-10 years from now. Not to mention if reimbursement eventually will require an EMR. Things like this will happen I’m sure.

With those disclaimers, you still can calculate an ROI. The low hanging fruit is the EHR incentive money and the future EHR penalties for not having an EHR. These add up to really large numbers for hospitals. You can also look at productivity before and after the EHR. Of course, depending on how you implement the EMR, this could actually be a cost of EHR as opposed to a benefit. Either way it should be calculated in the ROI. There are many more.

From what I’ve seen everyone sees the future of physician documentation is going to be in an EMR. Just because the move to EMR is inevitable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still keep focused on the ROI you can receive from it.

Is your hospital tracking your EHR ROI?

August 21, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Homecare Firm Dispatches 4,000 Android Tablets With Nurses

Could Android gear be sneaking up on Apple? Here’s one case where a national healthcare organization decided to go with the Android technology for a very large and clearly mission-critical purchase.

A national homecare agency has bucked the iPad trend in tablets, picking up 4,000 Android-based units to send with its personnel to patient homes. The company, Philadelphia-based Bayada, issued the Samsung 7-inch Galaxy Tab 7.0 plus to its therapists, medical social workers and other home health professionals.

In issuing the tablets, Bayada hoped to make its homecare professionals more efficient, especially when visiting Medicare home health patients who only get one hour each.

The tablet deployment followed a 20-person pilot in which it found that the typical nurse reduced his or her typing by one-half hour every day if using a tablet during visits instead of paper or a laptop.

Not only do workers use the tablets to document care within patient homes, they also pull up patient data before they head out on their patient visits.  This spares the nurses having to report to a central office to get their appointments before they leave in the morning.

To make clinical data entry simpler, Bayada has loaded the tablets with SwiftKey Healthcare’s keyboard software, an app which is preloaded with medical terms. It uses artificial intelligence to anticipate which words will be typed next and “learns” over time what words healthcare workers use most often.

Since implementing the SwiftKey software, 69 percent of Bayada’s nurses said they preferred using a tablet for taking clinical notes.

Given the large price difference between the iPad/iPad mini and Android tablets — with Android, obviously, at a lower price point — I’d be surprised if other large healthcare organizations didn’t follow in Bayada’s footsteps.

After all, Apple fan though I am, I have to admit that as the suite of apps available for the Android platform matures, there’s less and less reason for institutions to pay the premium Apple demands.  I wonder if we’re seeing the beginning of a major shift in Android investment by healthcare organizations.

February 27, 2013 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

Study: EMR ROI Stronger In Low-Income Setting

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.

November 23, 2012 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

Hospitals Behind On EMR ROI Measurements

Buying an EMR is one of biggest investments a hospital IT department is likely to make. To date, however, few hospitals are planning for and implementing EMR ROI measures early in the game, according to a new study from Beacon Partners.

Beacon interviewed more than 300 healthcare leaders about the clinical system performance measures they used for their EMR, as well as the resulting ROI.  What researchers found out was that most respondents weren’t happy with their organization’s attempts to measure the ROI on their EMR spend — and that many hospitals aren’t directly measuring ROI at all.

According to healthcare leaders who spoke with Beacon, quality management and IT departments, rather than financial executives,  generally institute EMR performance measures. All told, 40 percent of respondents said that they were using performance measures, but only 36 percent were satisfied with the extent to which the data was being used to measure the value EMRs brought to their organization, Beacon reports.

The problem may spring from a lack of planning. According to Beacon’s respondents, less than half (48 percent) of performance measures are determined during planning.  In fact, 32 percent of providers said that performance measures were implemented in at least one patient care area post-EMR implementation.  Fifty-one percent of respondents said that they would have preferred to implement clinical system performance measures earlier than they had done so.

It’s hard to tell what would deter these healthcare execs —  mostly leaders with community hospitals — from demanding more results from their EMR investment. My best guess, though, is that adhering to Meaningful Use guidelines has taken up all of their bandwidth, and that CFOs have been mollified by the promise of incentive payments from the feds.

As the Beacon study suggests, though, healthcare leaders aren’t satisfied with this state of affairs. Vendors, expect to get more searching questions about ROI measurement over the next year or two.

October 26, 2012 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