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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology

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What business need does this project address? What are reasonable expectations for the outcome of this project?

In addition to their consequences for patient safety and outcomes, health IT projects can address a variety of business needs. For example, distance-shrinking projects, such as telehealth, can expand the organization's potential patient base. This may allow development of economies of scale - for example, a group that has multiple small clinics may be more effectively able to centralize business functions such as IT staff, billing, and human resources. Drawing on a larger base of patients can also help support specialists who otherwise would not have sufficient workload to justify traveling long distances to see patients or working in smaller communities.

Electronic Health Record (EHR) implementation may also affect an organization's business model. Digitizing records can reduce storage needs and allow staff resources to be used in other ways. Electronic billing and prescribing can improve accuracy and compliance. In the longer term, use of EHRs can lead to better continuity of care, reductions in unnecessary treatment, and other efficiency improvements.

While using health IT may save time and reduce costs eventually, the pace of change means that health care organizations may not benefit immediately from its implementation. In fact, changes to practitioners' workflows often can lead to weeks or even months of adjustment during which productivity is lower than it was before implementation. So, when considering the business-side benefits of a health IT project, begin with the quantifiable and concrete, for example, improvement in billing efficiency, reduction in duplication of diagnostic tests, and/or decrease in record storage costs.

When projecting improvements in efficiency and patient outcomes, be reasonable and realistic, especially while nurturing stakeholder buy-in. No hardware or software is a magic bullet. Clinical and leadership support from clinicians and staff may evaporate if the implementation is more challenging than was initially forecasted. In these circumstances, leadership should acknowledge the identified difficulties, but stress the positives of the project, including that it will foster a culture of patient safety and continuous improvement of care outcomes.

Resources:

Developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a resource for health centers and other safety net and ambulatory care providers who are seeking to implement health IT.
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Health Information Technology Toolboxes help health centers, safety net providers, and ambulatory care providers with electronic and online resources and technical assistance to improve patient care.  More>
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