By David Fletcher, MPH
Vice President of Innovations, Streamline Health, Inc.

A friend recently purchased a 95 year-old house. The inspection revealed some bad news. The electrical system was woefully below code and they’d need to rewire the whole house. When I asked how he felt about spending so much on infrastructure, he said, “We fell in love with the house for its charm, not for its infrastructure. Now we can have the best of both worlds: a classic house with smart electric.” Remotely controlled lights, USB plugs, automated HVAC and integrated security were all in his plans.

I asked how much extra these items would add to rewiring the house.

“You’d be surprised how little, given that we were already facing a large bill”, he replied. He estimated the contemporary features only added about 20% to the cost of simply rewiring the house. Rather than settling for an expensive ‘fix’ to the problem, they’d turned the obstacle into an opportunity. Not only would they get a state-of-the-art home that supported their contemporary lifestyle, but they also estimated the bump in resale value would cover the cost of the contemporary features twice over. The true return on investment (ROI) for this project required a forward-thinking perspective that saw beyond the bad news from the home inspection.

Given the dramatic changes impacting healthcare today, providers also need this forward-thinking perspective.  When considering the technology solutions needed to facilitate changes mandated by healthcare reform, expand your expectations as to what you can accomplish. Go beyond ’fixes’ and consider the true ROI that can be achieved, both now and in the long term.

Demonstrate True Financial Value

Improving patients’ care and their experiences are key; however, the truest barometer of ROI will always be the financial impact of an investment. How long will it take an investment to pay for itself, and what is the total cost of ownership over the long run? Seek out HIT partners who can display the financial impact of their solutions, and confirm the claimed benefits through their reference sites.

Optimize Existing Teams

Organizations already have a tremendous investment—in dollars and human capital—in their current systems. When gauging the value of any new HIT, you should consider how well they support and optimize existing processes and technology. Does the new solution disrupt current systems or does it enhance them? Can it help reduce inefficiencies through new functionality, enhanced workflows and analytic insight? These add value and should be considered part of the return for a given solution.

Increase Interoperability

In this era of mergers, acquisitions and mandates for health information exchange, the ability to share data and to coordinate workflows across traditional boundaries is more important than ever. Even within a single enterprise there may be multiple EHRs in use, so finding solutions that are flexible and that can integrate with different EHRs and other systems is a big advantage. In addition to increased efficiencies and collaboration that drive financial and clinical improvements, the data from systems that interoperate this way also enables greater analysis for insight that drives better decisions at all levels—from improved patient care to more informed decisions in the board room.

Support Your Long Term Strategy

No one can see the future, but savvy organizations can prepare themselves for long term success by thinking strategically with every infrastructure improvement. If you anticipate growth, either through expansion or partnerships, build flexibility into your decisions now. Consider open-ended, system-agnostic solutions that work & play well with other systems. Platform-based solutions are more prevalent than ever, and finding one that works with your current scenario means you can reap benefits now while also setting the stage for rapidly assimilating new partnerships.

The realities of our market are forcing providers to undergo significant change, often at great expense and risk. If you’re already facing a disruptive, expensive challenge, you might as well make every effort to recoup as much benefit as possible from it.