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5 Tips for Maximizing Electronic Health Record ROI

By Zachary Blunt, manager of product management population health, Greenway Health

Zachary Blunt
Zachary Blunt

Electronic health records (EHRs) were expected to revolutionize healthcare practices, making them more efficient, reducing costs and enabling them to provide more coordinated care.

But ask healthcare providers about the EHRs they’ve deployed, and the results are far from what was expected.

In fact, more than 60 percent of healthcare professionals rank their return on investment (ROI) for EHR systems as “terrible” or “poor,” according to a recent survey from Health Catalyst. Another study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, estimated the costs of billing and insurance-related activities using EHRs ranged from $20 for each primary care visit to $215 for inpatient surgery, totaling 3 percent to 25 percent of professional revenue.

So, why aren’t EHRs living up to the hype and delivering the promised investment? In many cases, it has to do with these systems not being used to their highest potential.

Here’s a look at five steps healthcare practices can take to address challenges resulting from EHR implementation and maximize their ROI.

  1. Get Buy-In Across the Board — from IT to Finance to Front Office Staff

Adopting EHRs to manage clinical activities impacts many revenue cycle-related functions, such as patient registration, insurance eligibility, scheduling and the services/treatments a patient received during each clinical encounter. To achieve ROI, EHRs must be able to improve several operations of a practice and streamline the workflows of different departments. It’s best practice for all clinicians and staff to weigh in before installing new systems or technologies.

  1. Provide Strong Leadership, Communication and Training

Changes in common practices during EHR implementation can result in significant resistance from users or a longer learning curve that hampers efficiency and adds to the cost of the system. To achieve results, healthcare leaders should clearly articulate the EHR implementation plan, prepare themselves for a transition period and develop a training protocol so all users understand their roles in using the system. In addition, users should have a solid background and understanding on how their roles factor into the overall success of the system and the practice at large.

  1. Improve Staffing Efficiency While Improving Operating Margins

Labor costs can account for nearly half of a healthcare provider’s operating costs. But providers often fail to take a strategic look at how adjusting staffing can improve the bottom line. Often, providers use historical averages to determine staffing levels at their practices, resulting in an outlay of overtime pay outside the planned budget when unexpected staffing demands occur. Data from EHR solutions, as well as enterprise resource planning (ERP) sources, can be analyzed to gain a better understanding of historical staffing trends. Accenture estimates that by getting insights from EHR and ERP data, U.S. healthcare providers could save more than $77 billion over the next five years by reducing overtime and overall labor costs.

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PwC’s 2013 Third Quarter Healthcare Mergers and Acquisitions Report Show Small Uptick, but Still Lags Behind 2012

PricewaterhouseCoopersPricewaterhouseCoopers released its 2013 third quarter healthcare mergers and acquisitions report and there a small uptick over the first two quarters in the number of healthcare deals with 138 total transactions so far. The value of the deals announced is $15.8 billion, up 35 percent over the second quarter, but 2013 is still behind 2012 with volume down 4.6 percent and value down a whopping 25 percent.

For-profit deals were up, continuing the serge from the second quarter, marked by Tenet Healthcare Corporation’s proposed acquisition of Vanguard Health Systems for $4.3 billion, and the third quarter opened with the announcement of Community Health System’s $3.9 billion offer to purchase Health Management Associates (HMA).

Hospital Deals

During Q3 2013, deal volume and value were up when compared to Q3 2012 with the total volume of hospital transactions increased 59 percent from 12 in Q3 2012 to 19 in Q3 2013. Overall deal value increased significantly from $38 million in Q3 2012 to $12.3 billion in Q3 2013. This is largely the result of two $1+ billion transactions in Q3 2013.

The two $1+ billion transactions announced in Q3 2013 were responsible for the significant increase in total deal value.

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CommonWell Opens Up Interoperability, or Does It?

If you love drama, there may be no better time than now to be in health IT. Specifically, the CommonWell Health Alliance movement – spearheaded by vendor giants Allscripts, Athenahealth, Cerner, Greenway and McKesson — to promote health information exchange.

However, as we all know, the one giant in the room not to be invited to the dance, Epic, is crying foul.

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