HIT Essentials for Hospital Boards (and Other Leadership), Part 2

Information technology should support the healthcare mission, not become the mission, so it is important, especially for the board, to not get dragged into the minutiae. Here are three more essential concepts about information technology in healthcare that should be integral to every hospital board’s leadership toolbox. Understanding these will help position a hospital for successful implementations, and to reap long-term benefits.

1) Converting to EHR systems is a baby-step. This is just an early phase in a much longer process of weaning the healthcare system away from paper and into a world in which the efficiencies of technology can truly enable a reformed healthcare system. Quality reporting, the reduction of administrative burden, the application of standards, more accurate billing, lower prices for coverage and services, computerized decision support, improved home care, and access to better care for all are just some of the goals that depend upon the thoughtful application of information technology. The day each hospital and every physician in the country starts using EHR systems will mark an early milestone in a transformative process that will continue for years. Remember, there is no going back…

2) Calculating Return on Investment (ROI) is hard. Implementing an EHR system is not the same as investing in a new drill press for a machine shop, where the price per widget can be calculated using known formulas and each widget sold contributes to net profit or loss. Furthermore, classic ROI calculations assume a monetary payback for a given investment within a specified number of years. The kind of savings EHR systems bring to a hospital may not be apparent for a while. They may involve improvements in safety and efficiency that are more difficult to measure, or that may pay off in intangible ways such as greater patient satisfaction. From a safety standpoint, the return must be measured in terms of “mistakes not made.” Just to complicate this a bit, consider the drive away from task-based pricing and it gets harder still.

3) Technology will enable individualized medicine. Thanks to what we will learn from research done on anonymized data from populations and their subsets, physicians will be able to target care plans specific to the way an individual reacts to certain classes of drugs or other treatments. Information about what works and what doesn’t work will be more readily available to physicians, providing huge value to both individuals and communities. Hospitals will have first access to this information, and the best ones will use it to assess their performance and perform research with an immediate benefit to both the business and the community. (Link to Part 3 here.)

-Rod Piechowski

Copyright © 2010, Rod Piechowski, Inc., Consulting

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