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Healthcare IT does not Reduce Costs

If you have researched academic papers you will have read much that is derivative and little that demonstrates new insight. This state of affairs is exacerbated by a general academic tendency to prolixity and bad grammar that rivals a breakfast news TV programme.

I can't comment on the quality of the writing in this case, but E-Health-Insider reports Harvard Medical School et al have concluded that healthcare IT systems do not cut costs. That may be news to the researchers, but it is not to me.

Many authorities have pointed out that the introduction of IT does not cut costs. See Paul Strassman or Leslie P. Willcocks' Beyond the IT Productivity Paradox. But the myth persists.

A few years ago I heard a woman present on the use of Lean in her hospital. Though it's a method specifically designed to remove activities that add no value and speed up those that do, it had not reduced costs, but then, she said, they had not implemented any IT systems, which, she asserted, were good at reducing costs. There is little evidence to support this assertion. Nor is that a surprise.

If we add an IT system to a mix of unchanged processes then we must expect costs to increase, especially if workarounds have to be implemented because the system doesn’t support "the way we do it here".

Peter Drucker said: “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.” Benefits from IT systems do not magically appear as soon as the boxes are switched on. Implementing beneficial processes, and thereby saving money, with the support of IT requires the courage to challenge status quo, the analytical skill to identify shortcomings and the determination to implement real change. Is healthcare ready for such a mission?

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