Benefits from EMR Come from Interoperability

“Looking for savings in hospitals that use EMRs is short-sighted. The real payday for use of EMRs will come with interoperability. Measurable savings will be realized as middleware is installed that will allow for the electronic transmission and translation of patient records across different proprietary systems between delivery networks.” – Jim Lott, Executive Vice President, Hospital Council of Southern California, Los Angeles source

“EMRs don’t save money in standalone situations. However, EMRs will absolutely save significant money (and improve care and safety) when connected and sharing clinical information.” Johnny Walker, MBA, CPA, Founder and past CEO of Patient Safety Institute, Plano, Texas source

These two quote remind me a lot of my previous post about the real long term benefits of EMR. Interoperability is one of those benefits that we won’t see right away. In fact, we’ll see little benefit from them until we hit a critical mass of EMR implementations that it’s almost futile to share information between EMR software. Kaiser and the VA are always held up as examples of successful EMR implementations and one of the main reasons for that is that they have such broad EMR adoption that they can share the clinical information across all of their clinics.

So, YES! there is a real benefit to EMR adoption long term and it comes dressed in the name “EMR data sharing.” However, it’s worth pointing out that this doesn’t diminish the very important more quickly seen EMR benefits.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • RE: “EMRs don’t save money in standalone situations…”. Then something is wrong. Automation should be part of every EMR and automation should save money.

    I have noticed a few people responding to the recent report that said that there was no evidence that EMRs saved money by saying that the savings are longer term, but if I recall, the study looked at some installations that were 4 years old and still no savings.

    IMO, the EMR community should use this report as an opportunity to figure what we’re doing wrong instead of trying to defend the status quo.

    EMR as a whole is a failure (based on low adoption rates). It’s yet to be seen if financial incentives can turn that failure around – IMO it won’t because up front costs are only one of the problems with most EMRs and the incentives only address that one problem.

  • Russ,
    Nice point. I skimmed over that part of it as I focused on the under appreciated benefits of EMR interoperability. I actually do think there are benefits and even cost savings/revenue generation that comes from an EMR implementation. Thus, my link to those benefits at the end of the article. However, I think most users also under value what can be done and benefited from long term in regards to interoperability.

    However, I do think that EMR vendors need to focus more on achieving the right ROI for their clients and doctors/practice managers/etc should spend more time finding and supporting those EMR vendors who are able to achieve those results.

  • Here is a link to a study that showed some positive results for EMR use –

    “Conclusions: A basic CPOE system in a community setting was associated with a significant reduction in medication errors of most types and severity levels.”

    Note, this study is about CPOE which is not featured in all EMRs and I think that HIMMS has even been trying to get HHS to back off on making CPOE required for the stimulus $.

    But here is real data that shows real benefits. This study is about error rates and not dollars – but if errors are reduced then lawsuits are reduced and hopefully malpractice insurance premiums follow.

    IMO, we never needed the tax payer funded stimulus to begin with. Malpractice insurance companies should offer radically reduced rates to physicians that use CPOE and that would be all the “stimulus” that is needed to move doctors toward EHR.

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