Investing in Electronic Health Records? Think Meta-ROI.

The traditional way of thinking about your technology Return on Investment (ROI) is in strictly financial terms: Take the cost of a technology investment and attempt to quantify the financial benefits as a percentage of the cost. Match the cost and you’ve broken even. Generate a financial return greater than the cost and you’re dollars ahead.

But let’s face it. Much of the time, the costs included in a ROI don’t fully reflect the total cost of ownership: the initial purchase cost, training, implementation, support, upgrades, and maintaining regulatory compliance—to name just a few. 

Moreover, this approach to ROI leaves out returns that are potentially more meaningful than just dollars and cents. This is especially true when it comes to the promise of electronic health records (EHR).

Meaningful Use incentive dollars aside, the traditional drivers for investing in electronic health record technology are less financial and more clinical: legible, more complete, more portable health information; the longitudinal record; clinical decision support, patient engagement and more.

There are clear operational benefits of EHR too: streamlined workflow, less redundancy, fewer manual steps, less paper. Finally, there is the promise of a personal win for the doctor—that is, the potential to change his/her daily practice: better time management, less time spent on administrative tasks relative to direct patient care, and even the ability to maintain a better work/life balance.

All of the above are potential dividends from intelligent automation that simply can’t be quantified in financial terms.

That’s why we need to look at EHR and other technology purchases with a broader definition of ROI: A “Meta-ROI,” if you will, that includes not just financial but the clinical, operational and personal returns.

Through this lens, we gain a more complete and accurate picture of the benefits of our investment—and can make more informed decisions about which technologies, including which EHR platform, to adopt.

About the Author

Stephen Armstrong is senior vice president for Hello Health, the revenue generating EHR platform for primary care practices supporting practice vitality through patient engagement.