A standardized means of exchanging healthcare information electronically would reap annual savings of nearly $87 billion when fully implemented at all healthcare systems, hospitals and physician offices, according to a study by the Center for Information Technology Leadership, Wellesley, Mass., released today at the Health Information Management Systems Society meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Of that annual net savings, about $34 billion would accrue to providers and $30 billion to payers, says the analysis of the costs and benefits of industry investment in "interoperability" of computer systems and data. Laboratories, radiology centers and pharmacies would realize the balance of the benefits, according to the study.
The findings were based on a 10-year implementation scenario in which providers purchased new information systems enabling them to make use of a single set of technical requirements and data definitions for sending and receiving healthcare information. Researchers calculated that savings would derive from fewer tests and improved efficiency.
Under the scenario, the nation would break even in the fifth year and rack up a total of $395 billion in net returns by year 10.
The inefficiency of disparate and nonstandard IT in healthcare organizations became a front-burner issue a year ago and led HHS and other public and private-sector leaders to champion industry standards for representing data and computer images electronically. But any campaign to make information accessible regardless of the computers and networks that exchange the data would involve a steep investment commitment by healthcare organizations.
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson has vowed to get a national initiative under way by the end of the year to create incentives for such investment. "Our research shows conclusively that there are strong financial reasons for the nation to invest in standardized healthcare information exchange," said Blackford Middleton, M.D., chairman of the CITL.