Healthleaders Media: E-Health Systems: For Love or Money?

The following are the comments I posted to Gienna’s article,

Nicely written Gienna.  My concerns from the get go regarding Meaningful Use (MU) and Certification are:

  • Is Meaningful Use meaningful
  • If so, to whom


My answer to both questions is it is meaningful, on paper, to the ONC and CMS.  It is meaningful with the respect that it does one thing.


  • Meaningful Use changes the course of a healthcare provider’s business strategy from whatever internal course it was pursuing to one having a national focus.

If you do not believe me, look at your resource plan for meeting MU.  Some hospitals are having to redirect more than fifty percent of their IT resources away from whatever they were doing for the hospital to meet the MU requirements.

The article reports several sets of numbers which I think are at best misleading.  I think those hospitals who meet MU will do so much later than are being reported.  Few will make it in time to capture the full EHR “rebate”.  As such, the pool of available money to go back to hospitals is overstated, as are the number of hospitals who will receive it.

There is a broad chasm between those who expect to receive money and the amount they expect to receive, and how much will paid be paid to how many.

Now, with respect to whether any of this is meaningful; how many hospitals would have been willing to sacrifice their business strategy and spend millions of dollars to try to meet such a gossamer directive if this was tied to any other directive originating out of Washington?

Let us take something so outlandish as to be silly just to try to illustrate the point; paining your hospital pink.  If Washington offered similar sums of money and if one had to spend similar resources to earn it, would a hospital’s executive team approve the expenditure?  What is the business reason that makes MU so different?

The other issue I have with their optimistic MU adoption forecasts is the following.  Meeting MU is binary.  That is, there are no points for getting close.  A hospital which meets ninety-five percent of the criteria receives the same rebate as a hospital which meets none of the criteria.  Zero.  Using their own figures, if hospitals meet it by 2016, all they will have done is spent millions to receive zero payout.

As you calculate the ROI for EHR/MU be sure to include the following:

  • Will your EHR implementation be successful?  The latest figures I have seen suggest that your odds of having a successful implementation of EHR are less than one in two.
  • If you are “successful” will you meet it in time to potentially qualify for the full amount—if not, decrease what you expect to receive.
  • Will you complete the requirements to your satisfaction—if not, multiply your expected payout by a number less than one?
  • Will you pass the MU audit?  Some will not.  That is why there is an audit.  If you do not pass, you can reapply at a later date, but you will no longer be entitled to the full amount.  Again, multiply your expected payout by a number less than one.

And, here’s the kicker.  Here is the calculation most hospitals have overlooked.  How much has your productivity dropped since you implemented EHR?  A heads up for hospitals who have not completed their implementation—a large number of hospitals have spent in excess of a hundred million dollars only to see their productivity still twenty percent below what it was without EHR.

What does such a productivity loss do to your ROI calculation?  There is no language from ONC and CMS stating that such a productivity loss is meaningful.


2 thoughts on “Healthleaders Media: E-Health Systems: For Love or Money?

  1. Hi Paul:

    Your postings on MU have been right on the mark. It’s refreshing to read on the realities of these new mandates and I hope that other physicians do take the time to bone up on this before they themselves lose their shirts trying to get the elusive $44000.00.

    Anyhow, keep up the good work.



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