New research paper aims to understand the contribution of digital health investments in achieving healthcare aims

Digital transformation is the future of healthcare. Implementation of digital platforms can be expensive. It is challenging to demonstrate the contribution of digital health investment in achieving the healthcare aims of population health and workforce sustainability. 

To understand this better, researchers at UQ conducted a scoping review on how electronic medical record (EMR) implementations in the hospital setting have been evaluated using cost–benefit analysis (CBA) approaches. 

While previous studies have indicated that there is a positive impact from the EMR implementation, the impacts measured varied greatly, and the research team concluded that the current literature demonstrates a lack of appropriate and comprehensive economic frameworks to understand the value of digital hospital implementations. Additionally, most studies failed to align fully to the quadruple aims of healthcare: they focused either on cost savings and/or improved patient outcomes and population health, none investigated healthcare-workforce sustainability. 

Lead author, Dr Kim-Huong Nguyen, said that “one of the most interesting findings was that EMR technologies offer highly effective solutions for simple medical problems but showed decreasing effectiveness for highly complex problems.” But added that she was hopeful about the future of such EMR technologies: “as the technology driving artificial intelligence becomes more predictive in medicine, we would expect to see the cost effectiveness of EMRs and other digital health interventions becoming even more positive. This will take time though, and each investment may just be the precursor to the next big breakthrough.” 

The economic analysis was carried out under the guidance of UQ CHSR health economist A/Prof Tracy Comans, and was led by Dr Kim-Huong Nguyen and the Health Economics Research and Modelling Unit in collaboration with the UQ Digital Health Research Network led by A/Prof Clair Sullivan and Queensland Health.  

The scoping review is Part 1 of the iEMR benefit-cost analysis project funded by Metro North Health and Hospital Services (Australia). The study design, data collection, and analysis were conducted independently from and not influenced by the funding organization. 

The research is published in Nature Digital Medicine (DOI:10.1038/ s41746-022-00565-1). 

Media: Dr Kim-Huong Nguyen -  

Last updated:
18 April 2022