Realizing the Value of Health IT

I’ve been focused on the value of healthcare IT for a long time. Obviously, I’ve been particularly focused on the value of EHR including a whole series of posts on the benefits of EHR (which I need to finish). I’m a huge fan of the value of EHR and healthcare IT, but I also am a realist. I realize that we aren’t getting all of the value out of healthcare IT that we could be getting. I also realize that poor health IT implementations can actually decrease value as opposed to increasing the value of health IT. Plus, I also see a huge disconnect between the value government sees in healthcare IT and what doctors find valuable.

If you don’t believe healthcare is missing out on the value healthcare IT could provide we don’t need to look any further than the fax machine. A recent CovisintPorter Research study found that “76% of respondents stated that they are handling their inflow of information via Fax.” Mr H from HISTalk aptly described this: “Healthcare: the retirement home for 1980s technology.”

I’ve also seen illustrated dozens of times the way a poor implementation can actually cause more problems than it solves. The Sutter EHR implementation is one example to consider. No doubt there is a lot of internal politics involved in the challenges that Sutter is facing with their EHR, but soon I’ll be publishing on Hospital EMR and EHR some first hand experiences with that EHR implementation. It’s a sad thing to see when an EMR implementation is done the wrong way. However, the opposite is also true. I’ve seen hundreds of organizations that love their EHR and can’t imagine how they practiced medicine before EMR.

One thing I’ve never heard a practicing doctor say is that they want to show meaningful use to be able to realize the value of health IT. I’ve certainly heard doctors say they have to show meaningful use to get the government money. I’ve certainly heard doctors say they want to show meaningful use to avoid the EHR penalties. I haven’t heard any doctor say they want to show meaningful use because it provides value to their clinic.

To me this illustrates the wide divide between the value government wants to see from healthcare IT and the value healthcare IT can provide a healthcare organization. Currently the government is riding on the back of incentive money and penalties to motivate healthcare organizations. No doubt this has caused many healthcare organizations to adopt an EHR. However, the incentive money and penalties won’t last forever. Then what?

What’s sad for me is that EHR adoption was starting to gain some momentum pre-HITECH act. There was a definite shift towards EHR adoption as organizations realized they needed to head that direction. Then, once the HITECH act hit it threw every EHR organizations plans out the door and created an irrational hysteria around EHR. This has led to irrational selection of EHR vendors, rushed EHR implementations, and cemented in many Jabba the Hutt EHR vendors that the relatively free EHR market wouldn’t have adopted pre-HITECH. To be honest, I’m ready for a return to a more rational EHR market based on value created. That’s when we’ll truly start realizing the value of health IT.

Beyond EHR, we need more brave leaders in healthcare IT that aren’t afraid to move beyond the fax machine. Leaders who don’t need a business model to realize that we can do better than the fax machine and other 80’s technology. It shouldn’t take five committees, two research studies, a certification, and outside money for an organization to do what’s right for patients. In fact, doing so is the very best business model in the world.

What scares me is that we’re going to miss out on the value of healthcare IT because our healthcare leaders are too busy fighting the proverbial meaningful use, ICD-10, and ACO fires.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, 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.


  • Excellent post. We are missing the most valuable assets an EMR offers because of chasing meaningful use and becoming saturated with planning for all the threats that the government hammer is bring down upon practicing Docs. Registries and reminders about needed care are the items that often go lacking as we neglect moving to PCMH rather than meaningful use. There are far too many programs that involve major overhauls in workflows and practice patterns occurring all at one time.
    Too much too close and too few reasons for the changes being made to allow EMR’s to b used to aid Docs instead of annoy them. Time to reexamine stage 3 MU and ditch ICD 10 and penalties for other items as well.

  • RE: “What scares me is that we’re going to miss out on the value of healthcare IT because our healthcare leaders are too busy fighting the proverbial meaningful use, ICD-10, and ACO fires.”

    Twas ever thus. Unfortunately, “Process Uber Ales” trumps “Keep It Simple Stupid” every time. “KISS” is the secret to most successful products, while mindless adherence to “process” usually just gums up the works. This is not unique to EMRs. The worship of style over substance has been increasing over the decades, and IMO is gradually causing society overall to approach functional and legal gridlock.

  • Thanks, John, for your salient post. Your concerns and seeing the trends in healthcare IT area are spot on. There are health care providers and techies (especially outside the US) that are taking healthcare IT innovation to a new level, such as natural language processing (Clinithink) and coupled with my open source EHR which is also taking off and being recognized more internationally than in the US all because of this MU, ICD10, and ACO circus going on. I hate to see all this stuff go off a cliff but I think some providers in the US have already fallen off and are looking elsewhere (primary care and other independent specialty providers) or getting absorbed by a hospital system. My Indiegogo campaign is meant to highlight this healthcare IT crisis, as well as support my ongoing development of my open source EHR. Perhaps this way, we can gather public awareness of this problem.

  • Here in Union County, NJ we are offering free 4-hour workshops to employees of medical care practices and facilities regarding the value of EHR and PHR. These are funded through a grant from the New Jersey Hospital Association and NJ Health Information Technology Extension Center. These are held at the campuses of Union County College in Cranford or Elizabeth. Follow this link for details.

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