In a study of 17 primary-care clinics, Canadian researchers found that providers were able to achieve positive ROI on their EHR investment within 10 months, on average. The main reason was an increase in the number of patients each clinician could see after the EHR implementation—a 27% increase in the active-patients-to-clinician ratio.
Of course, provider experiences with EHRs vary greatly. Both the US and Canada have seen incredible successes and spectacular failures, with some practices going so far as to uninstall their EHR.
The report authors acknowledge this reality, saying, “a positive ROI does not appear automatically upon implementing an EHR” and that “a clinic’s ability to leverage EHR for process changes seems to play a role.”
So, it’s worth digging into the report results to uncover which policies are essential to achieving positive ROI in a short amount of time. Here are the highlights:
- Newer is better. The report notes that older EHR implementations were slower to recover their investment, mainly because earlier systems were less user friendly and required longer training cycles. The newer the EHR, the sooner a positive ROI can be achieved, say the authors.
- Compliance matters. The study found a link between ROI and compliance with national standards like prescription drug codes. The newer EHRs helped clinics comply with national standards and evidence-based medicine.
- EHR flow sheets increase efficiency. Advanced EHR flow sheets help clinicians by automatically maintaining patient problem lists and pharmacological profiles, eliminating the need to spend time manually maintaining these lists.
Interestingly, the study found that many clinics used only a limited number of EHR functions; the most frequently used was medication management. Clinicians told the authors that it typically takes a few months to understand a function sufficiently to effectively introduce it into their practice. The authors concluded that a clinic’s ability to embed particular EHR functionalities into their workflow and make use of them in daily practice is more important than implementing a software package with a maximum number of features.
Just as significantly, the authors believe some of the key factors leading to positive ROI have implications for care quality and patient safety. For example, study participants cited improved access to up-to-date patient charts, improved ability to obtain lab test results, and improved ability to follow the results of an investigation over time.