What’s Your EHR’s ROI?
Mention “return on investment” in the same breath as “electronic health record,” and you’re likely to get a mixed reaction because the promised benefits of reducing costs and improving quality have been offset by reduced physician productivity or dips in financial performance for many organizations. While these risks are real, the potential “soft” benefits of improved quality and enhanced patient satisfaction, as well as “hard” benefits of improved revenue, are also real.
Given the capital investment needed to purchase and implement an EHR, you’d think that every healthcare organization installing these applications would have documented baseline performance; set clearly defined goals in terms of quality, expenses, and revenues; and established processes for monitoring their progress toward meeting these goals. However, I’ve found that’s not the case for most organizations making these large-scale investments.
In my experience, those organizations that do actively monitor results and work toward specific ROI goals seem to have better success with their EHR implementation, both clinically and financially. While some may not be seeing a cash increase at the end of the day, they are closing the gap between expenses and revenue. More importantly, they are better positioned for competing in an evolving reimbursement landscape where there is a shift from volume to value.
So how do you define and measure the ROI for your EHR? Here’s where you can start.
Measure baseline performance. Before starting down the road to implementation, you have to understand key baseline performance measures, including patient satisfaction, physician productivity, revenue cycle performance, and perhaps most importantly, key quality measures. By understanding these measures, leadership can set quantifiable goals and monitor the progress toward those goals. What is not measured is not going to be managed, and what is not managed is not going to improve a practice’s quality-cost curve.
Set expected ROI goals, not just financial goals. While a practice may not see a purely financial return from its EHR investment for several years, it is important to monitor financial results in order to mitigate risks of decreased physician productivity and practice revenue. Because quality will play an increasingly important role in reimbursement, workflows and system build decisions during implementation must support the capture of clinical data in a manner that ensures reporting is transparent and efficient.
Monitor ongoing performance. Unfortunately, once the system is live, the work is not necessarily finished. Dashboards and reports must be utilized to continually monitor your organization’s performance and to compare results with expected outcomes. While the goal is to ensure continual improvement, this step also is effective in proactively identifying post-implementation problems.
By setting realistic goals for your EHR, defining performance measures, establishing baselines, and monitoring data over time, your organization can truly get a handle on whether the EHR is living up to expectations and delivering a solid return on investment.
Brad Boyd is vice president of sales and marketing for Culbert Healthcare Solutions.