Healthcare Technology Featured Article

November 07, 2014

Electronic Records to Pack Big Savings for Healthcare Sector

The cost of healthcare, not only in the United States but in the rest of the world as well, has proven to be a hot-button issue these days. With arguing about who should pay and how much should be paid going on throughout most every segment of society, one thing is clear: there's a lot of money going around in healthcare and it needs to come from somewhere. But there's one move that's offering some substantial potential for savings, and that's the electronic healthcare record (EHR).

A report from Juniper Research, titled “Digital Health, Remote Monitoring & EHR Cost Savings 2014-2019,” took a look at the matter and suggested that, between 2014 and 2019, EHRs would save the global healthcare industry a healthy—so to speak—$78 billion. With that kind of money on the table, it became clear to most observers that EHRs will represent a major part of the future of healthcare, as more hospitals and the like brought said systems into play and took advantage of substantial savings.

It's not just about savings, either, but also about outright revenue generation. Increasingly, healthcare organizations are reportedly encountering Accountable Care Organization (ACO) initiatives that offer incentives according to the measured “wellness” of the patients in its charge, which in turn is changing the way healthcare organizations look at providing that service. Digital healthcare, meanwhile, is offering a much greater potential for monitoring patients and thus being able to track long-term trends, providing a more effective overall measure of “wellness.”

Juniper Research's Anthony Cox offered up a bit of commentary around the results of his study, noting that, as EHRs advanced in nature, such things would ultimately become the “glue” in unifying the somewhat disparate picture of devices and records that is seen today. With more healthcare workers finding digital healthcare a smart idea overall, adding EHRs in increasing numbers is likely to help drive that phenomenon forth to a greater degree.

But even Cox offers a note of caution: with the rise of EHRs needs to come an accompanying rise in controlled mobile health (mHealth) trials, and the differences among various portions of the global health industry mean that each EHR solution is going to have to be specifically tailored to account for those differences. That also means a lot of buy-in from the various parts; unless there's reason enough for businesses to enter a sector—a sufficiently large market—there won't be offerings in that market. However, with market offerings already in place like Samsung's Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions (SAMI) and Apple's HealthKit—not to mention increasing support from regulators—it's clear that this market will have at least some presence in the field for some time to come.

Any business—and healthcare here is truly no exception—is looking to do a combination of two things: increase revenue and decrease expenses. If expenses must increase, then so too must revenue increase to offset and surpass the rise in expenses. It's a basic universal survival recipe for business of all types. With EHRs, healthcare workers can not only access records faster and thus prove more efficient in the field, but can also use these records as part of a wellness cycle.

While that not only means incentive programs can kick in from regulators, it also has the potential to reduce expenses down the road. Only time will tell just how well it works, but it's got some great potential to do well for those putting EHRs to work on all sides of the healthcare spectrum.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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