Bill Gates Puts a New Spin on the Great EMR Debate

I heard an interesting interview on NPR the other day with Bill Gates on the subject of polio eradication. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been working for a number of years now on the effort, and are intent on seeing that no child ever becomes paralyzed as a result of the disease. The interview got me thinking about money, as NPR host Robert Siegel grilled Gates about the cost of this hopefully final vaccination push in the three countries that still show cases of it each year – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

According to Gates, a nice tidy sum of $5.5 billion will be necessary to vaccinate enough children to finally push out the disease. The question arose as to whether or not this money will be spent wisely. Could it be put to better, more effective use fighting other healthcare conditions, such as malaria, that affect greater numbers of people? Gates made the point that once polio is eradicated, the enormous amount of money already being spent on fighting it can then be spent on these other issues – a statement that to me didn’t seem to sit well with Siegel.

Now, if you’re in healthcare, chances are money crosses your mind a few times a day. And if you use an EMR, you’ve likely voiced an opinion or two on whether it has lived up to its promised value. I think Gates’ point above on cost effectiveness of disease eradication – the most expensive disease gets eradicated first to free up its funds for other healthcare causes – can be applied to the EMR ROI debate.

Yes, healthcare is expensive. Yes, current and possibly future EMRs may not have the best interfaces or give the ideal user experience. But, given time (perhaps a lot of time), they will ultimately help springboard immense cost savings throughout the industry. I consider them the backbone of interoperability, especially when it comes to health information exchange and accountable care – two notions that might just become the norm once EMR utilization finally reaches critical mass.

Stage 2 Meaningful Use will likely see a shift in the market, and from what I’ve read thus far, is causing providers to think about Meaningful Use in a new way. It might be a hiccup in this journey to cost savings, but it will likely separate the wheat from the chaff as far as vendors go. Hopefully, only effective products will be left standing, which will in turn make it easier for providers to use EMRs in the most effective way.

Money will of course be on everyone’s minds at the upcoming HFMA ANI show in Orlando. This has got to be one of my favorite events as it is smaller than HIMSS but still has that bustling, breaking news vibe. I’ll be interested to hear from providers their opinions on the recent push for greater price transparency when it comes to hospital costs, and how they are feeling about EMRs as of late. It will also be interesting to see how vendors are helping these providers meet Stage 2 and patient engagement head on.

Will you be at the ANI show? Drop me a line in the comments below and let me know what you’re looking forward to learning about or seeing the most.

About the author

Jennifer Dennard

Jennifer Dennard

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.