Health IT ROI hampered by staff shortages, limited data sources

Report says market for external data sources poised to grow when budgets and staffing catch up
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The potential return on investment for health IT is compromised by personnel shortages and limited sources for "clean, comprehensive data," according to a recently released survey by Deloitte Consulting and the American Medical Informatics Association.

"(E)ven when the budget is available, these organizations are unable to secure the right people and the right data to meet their needs," the authors concluded in the "2012 Deloitte-AMIA Health Informatics Industry Maturity Survey." They added that the gap "represents an opportunity for those with a desire to enter the field and for those with potential data sources to make them available."

None of the three major industry sectors represented in the survey--healthcare providers, life-sciences companies and health plans--had the means to fully leverage external data sources, the survey found. That indicates that the market for those data sources will be there when personnel, data and budgets eventually come together, the authors noted, and when health informatics applications become readily accessible.

"There is a clear market for external data sources--when secured with appropriate consent for secondary use--that can be reused and repurposed," the authors said. "This market creates inherent value in health informatics, potentially offsetting the additional costs associated with the network and infrastructure required to maintain a high quality and large quantity data set."

Additionally, good return on investment seems to translate into good organizational support for health-informatics activities, the survey found, including involving health-informatics teams in long-term planning.

Meanwhile, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association indicated electronic health records provide good ROI for hospitals in low-income areas. The study of EHR implementation in a hospital in the African country of Malawi found both cost savings and a net financial gain by the third year of operation.

A recent report from Beacon Partners also indicated dissatisfaction among hospital IT executives with how ROI of EHRs is measured. One-third of the respondents said performance measures weren't put in place until after implementation in at least one area of patient care.

"Often, the limited resources and hurried deadlines associated with EMR implementation preclude a thoughtful, strategic analysis of expected value for the substantial sums invested in clinical IT," Beacon Partners reported.

To learn more:
- download the Deloitte-AMIA report (.pdf)

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