Why Putting Capital Into EMR is a Smart Move

Rene Letourneau, for HealthLeaders Media , June 11, 2013

One provider who is ahead of the curve with its EMR implementation and can attest to the benefits of going digital is Sharp HealthCare, a San Diego–based integrated health system with FY2012 net revenue of $2.7 billion.

Sharp spent $45 million to introduce EMR systems (using two vendors) to both the hospital and ambulatory sides of its business, says Ann Pumpian, Sharp's senior vice president and CFO.

The EMR has made it possible for clinicians to access patient records from anywhere in the health system, Pumpian says.

"The days of searching for the patient chart are over, and the clinician is able to view a more complete picture of the patient's condition, treatment, and progress," she says. "Imaging exams can be displayed online, as well—wherever the physician is working. Utilization of standard order sets based on best practice medicine ensures that our patients receive the best possible care. Physician productivity is enhanced, as they no longer spend hours in chart rooms signing off on records, as this has occurred during the care process."

Although Sharp has not specifically measured the ROI, it is able to identify financial gains anecdotally, she says.

"Several million dollars in HITECH incentive dollars have been received as we demonstrated meaningful use," Pumpian says. "Staff time transporting charts has been reduced significantly. Chart storage space has been recovered and repurposed for direct patient care. Transcription costs have been reduced considerably and will decline further as we complete our clinical documentation improvement initiative."

The cost savings, clinical advancements, and improved population health management capabilities Sharp has experienced since deploying its new systems are exactly the results healthcare executives at hospitals all over the country are hoping for as they invest big money on their own EMR strategies.

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This article appears in the May issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

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