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ehealth’s elusive return on investment

Posted Jan 07 2009 6:24pm

Government Health IT published an interesting article titled, " The quest for value ". The author, Nancy Ferris, reports on some of the challenges, difficulties, and frustrations with trying to demonstrate a return on investment (ROI) or tangible cost savings when using information technologies within health care settings.

My own research and experience in this area has me believe that the main assertion of the article is more or less true - that the link to tangible, measurable results (i.e., ROI) is difficult. I would add that the main reason for this difficulty is because there is no direct causal link between use of IT in health care and outcomes, or at the very least, the link is so weak, that other factors drown out the benefits. A report released by the EU ( ) titled " Conceptual framework, healthcare and eHealth investment context and challenges " presents some similar findings that the benefits are only realized in the future (see the latter parts of the report).

Personally, I think this concept of trying to identify a cost-savings or return on investment in health care is a bit absurd. Even in industry, trying to calculate return on investment regarding the use of IT is a challenge. I can’t remember the exact quotation, but a CEO of Fedex (or UPS) once indicated that even though they can’t completely identify the ROI of using IT, they said that they can’t NOT use IT and said that it’s just the cost of doing business.

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