A better way to evaluate health IT

The folks at Medsphere, which licenses hospital software based on the VA’s open source VistA system, has launched aStimulus ROI Calculator, a handy way for evaluating its software based on that sweet, sweet stimulus cash, and of getting your hospital on its radar.

It’s a good thing.

But if you’re looking at health IT, especially if you’re a clinic, a stimulus calculator is not the first place you should be looking.

During the HIMSS show I got this clue in the Kryptiq booth, from Thomas Landholt (right), who runs a family clinic in Missouri and has been through the automation wars.

His advice? First write a business plan.

Whether you can afford an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system is one thing. But if government money is going to be your sole motivator, your automation effort is going to fail.

Instead, he suggested, treat your EMR investment just as you would an investment in a new imaging system, or lab system, or any other major purchase you are making for your business. That’s what your clinic is, a business.

Doctors resist thinking of themselves as businessmen, but unless you’re drawing a paycheck that’s what you are. And the biggest mistake many doctors make is spending all their time working in their business, rather than on their business.

Writing a business plan is working on your business. Figure out how you’re going to profit from this investment. Add up all the costs, list all the benefits. Put numbers on them. Do research to make certain the numbers are accurate.

What Landholt found, in building out his own EMR system, was that it helped him re-engineer his business. He put his nursing station in sight of the reception desk. He put in secure messaging to reduce the cost of connecting with patients, and increase communication. He changed workflows.

These are some of the things EMR software is designed to enable, under the stimulus. But what the software really does is provide you the opportunity to get inside your business and make it work better, more efficiently. You can lower costs and provide better care once you have access to your own data.

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