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Rare Truth on EHR ROI

June 25, 2008
by vciotti
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Modern Healthcare just released its "CEO IT Achievement Awards," recognizing those CEOs who have invested heavily in IT at their facilities. One of the winners was Doug Hawthorne, CEO at Texas Health Resources, a multi-hospital IDN in Dallas that is investing $200M in an EHR. Doug was asked about the ROI on this investment and responded "We've never been convinced that it will save us buckets of money and having that attitude is what allows us to continue to invest. You often hear of significant savings, but I don't know if that ever happened. We must make the investment not anticipating any financial return."

God bless Doug for being so honest in telling a rare truth about EMR ROI, as well as having the courage to invest so much in IT. His CIO is Ed Marx, whom I know well from his last job at University Hospitals Health System in Cleveland where we performed an IT Assessment for The Hunter Group. Ed worked miracles there, lowering costs while raising user satisfaction levels, with one hand tied behind his back (his whole IT shop was outsourced). One last great quote: "Like raising farming or raising children, installing an electronic medical record system is an exercise in taking the long view, and that's where Hawthorne finds comfort during the inevitable rocky times."



I had a civil service administrative assistant that refused to let go of her Lanier Word Processor and go to Wordperfect 5.0 (and Lotus 123). The union and HR got involved and I kept to my plan and we migrated everything. A year later, she said that she was glad that I "forced" her to change. She was more productive and learned new skills. She even gets to use this new e-mail thing!
Sometimes we get to force change because we recognize it as the right thing to do. An EMR has always been the right thing to do, it is always convincing the CFO's that investment is sometimes a leap of faith.


I haven't read the Modern Healthcare article, but I do know, because I advised them on the effort, that THR has done more than almost any other hospital system to quantify the expected returns (benefits) from their EHR. Many of those benefits were not financially-oriented, and many of those that were financial were long term, but it should be noted that THR's lack of reliance on financial returns is not because they are unaware of their potential, or haven't looked into the subject.