Physicians save an average of nearly $28,000 per year by using sophisticated computer-based ordering systems after spending about the same amount to purchase and install the technology, according to the first cost-effectiveness study by the new Center for Information Technology Leadership, Boston. The savings include an average cost avoidance of $17,000 in medication because of computer-prompted actions such as switching to generic drugs, substituting less expensive drugs and using medications more appropriately. The CITL was launched last summer to fill a void in rigorous assessment of the value of emerging clinical information technology. Most research on computer order entry has focused on the inpatient setting, but the majority of healthcare is delivered in ambulatory settings, the center said. Its report was released today at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference in San Diego.
Basic software to automate the ordering process for physicians costs about $4,500, but the return is limited because such systems are unable to catch billing problems or provide information that results in better financial and clinical decisions, the report said. Advanced systems cost five times as much but deliver 12 times the financial return. Nationwide adoption of advanced order-entry systems with computerized decision support would save the U.S. healthcare industry about $44 billion per year in expenses related to medication, radiology, laboratory and adverse events, the center said. -- by John Morrissey