While the cost of digitizing the “patient experience,” medical records and all, is soaring, no one seems to be asking about the ROI.

The question is: Why not?

Duke University Health System will spend $700 million over seven years to build out its digital backbone, according to the Duke Chronicle. Yale medical group will spend $250 million to switch to a large EMR vendor next year, the Yale Daily News says.


Federal incentives will cover a small fraction of that expense, and there is no concrete evidence that those spends will have a positive impact on hospital margin – ever!

To add to the mystery, in many cases the deployment of EMRs will slow other innovations and improvements in hospital operations because the big digital networks will not integrate with other technologies.

Harvard Medical School professors Kenneth Mandl and Isaac Kohane, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, predict this will lead to “stagnation in innovation.”

Digital networks which don’t mix with those of other companies or with software using newer technology formats may shut out “better, safer, cheaper and nimbler tools,” they said.

Writing in Forbes Magazine, David Shaywitz cautioned that big health care organizations already committed to the dominant EMR systems “could risk locking themselves out of medicine’s next great revolution,” whatever that may be.

Thus, not only are hospitals dipping deep into their pockets to fund technology which may never pay off financially, they are intentionally placing themselves in the slow lane on the highway of progress.

Does anyone have an answer as to why?


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