Wednesday, January 18, 2012

EHR Lowers Costs By 33% ... Oh ... Wait A Minute ... We Retract That Statement

There's this:

Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI Pilot Lowered Monthly Costs By Up to 33% Through EHRs
December 13, 2011
Becker's Hospital
Sabrina Rodak

Health plan members that received care from physician practices using electronic health records had an average of 17-33 percent lower monthly healthcare costs compared to members receiving care at non-EHR physician practices, according to a news release by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

BCBSRI conducted a three-year pilot program that partially funded 79 primary care physicians to purchase and use EHRs.

Then, there's this:

Blue Cross backtracks on claim that EHRs lower care costs
December 22, 2011
Dan Bowman

A week after reporting that use of electronic health records lowered the cost of care for its customers between 17 and 33 percent, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island has backtracked on those claims. In an email sent to FierceEMR, BCBS/RI says that while the program significantly improved healthcare quality, its cost data had not been risk adjusted and did not include costs related to infrastructure spending. "At this time we are unable to accurately ascertain the cost implications of the pilot and are retracting the news release," the email reads. BCBSRI updated its announcement, which can be found here.

I note the following:

  • Healthcare organizations, HIT pundits and vendors seem happy to promote EHR's as saving a great deal of money. I do not believe they ever will. (I have company, such as at Wharton.)
  • One can only wonder what led to the retraction of a press release based on a curbstone data analysis, as cited above. Internal dissent, perhaps?
  • Healthcare IT, as in this pilot study, can improve healthcare quality metrics (outcomes is another matter as yet undecided as illustrated by this reading list) - but only if done well, a remarkably complex undertaking. That undertaking starts at conception and design, to production, to implementation, to customization, to maintenance of software and hardware during the system lifecycle. See this report by the U.S. National Research Council.
  • When healthcare IT is done poorly, it will neither reduce costs, nor improve outcomes, and will increase risk to patients.
-- SS

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if their quality outcome data was risk adjusted?