Is there a business case for electronic medical records? Will an upfront investment in an EMR produce a return? If so, how long will it take for an electronic health records system to pay for itself?
These are common questions when physicians evaluate EMR or EHR software vendors. As noted in the white paper, "Implementing Ambulatory EMR Enterprise-wide: Critical Success Factors", an EMRs return on investment (ROI)can be anticipated to build in several stages. The following three stages of economic return should help you decide whether there is a business case for a particular electronic medical records system.
The first stage is characterized by operational efficiencies and workflow automation achieved through process re-engineering and faster access to accurate information. The benefits gained in this stage include reduced overhead costs and professional liability rate reduction.
In the second stage, benefits are derived from increased clinic productivity and decision support at the point of care. As more information is entered into the EMR, standard care protocols, order management, and outcomes analyses can be supported. EMR customers experience quality improvements, compliance with regulatory requirements, and reduced exposure to risk.
In the longer term, investments in EMR software systems can provide health care organizations with a distinct competitive advantage. Looking forward, physicians should anticipate using an electronic medical records system as a tool to manage the business of delivering care efficiently and cost-effectively, and to provide more responsive care to an increasingly selective consumer.