There are certainly benefits to using electronic health records, including the possibility of improving clinical outcomes. We don't need a study or survey to tell us this, though there is one.

If we to dig into some data, we find the best return on investment of the technology is the use of EHR data (24 percent) and increasing operational efficiencies (10 percent), according to a recent study — I told you there was one that gathered feedback from leading healthcare professionals.

However, even with the federal incentive-based push toward value-based care, only 2 percent of respondents in the survey felt that EHR data is most effective at reducing unnecessary admissions. Six percent of folks asked perceive EHR data as being most effective at lowering readmissions.

These are the specific findings of a study of hospital CIOs that apparently shows that "a continued disconnect between the availability of EHR data and its ability to influence both revenue and operating margins in hospitals."

The survey was conducted by LeanTaaS, which asked College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) hospital CIOs just five questions about their perceptions of EHR data and "attempts to increase both operating margins and revenue at their institutions."

Operational efficiencies are not far from top-of-mind when it comes to improving both operational margins and revenue.

Reducing labor costs (35 percent) and increasing operating room and emergency room efficiency (27 percent) topped the list of initiatives that best improve operating margins, while optimizing equipment utilization (52 percent) and ORs (40 percent) were cited as most effective in increasing revenue. In addition, 45 percent of respondents said the ORs were the department most likely to improve operating margins with the use of EHRs.

"This disparity perhaps reveals the uneven state of EHR deployments today; those that deployed early have begun to appreciate the potential use of EHR data at a more macro level, while those still wrestling with their implementations remain focused on the more obvious and immediately benefits of the technology," wrote Sanjeev Agrawal, president of healthcare and CMO at LeanTaas.

Early adopters of the technology possess an obvious leg up in terms of experience with the technology, and they have a seemingly baked in appreciation of the potential use of EHR data at a more macro level, "while those still wrestling with their implementations remain focused on the more obvious and immediate benefits of the technology," Agrawal notes.

In addition, 54 percent of survey participants said budgetary limitations were the top constraint in launching new initiatives, but 33 percent of respondents said lack of support resources as their biggest obstacle. That's probably a deeply negative sign for the technology.

And the data gathered from such technology is slow to be implemented, used or reflected upon.

"Overall, the survey confirms the suspicions of many: Healthcare providers are moving slowly to incorporate data science into their approaches to all but the most obvious use cases," Agrawal said. "True, the complexity, effort and expense of EHR implementation are to blame for a lot of the caution, but looking beyond improving clinical outcomes should accelerate not slow the use of EHR data for other purposes."

Using this data to improve operational efficiencies and refining its use for improving clinical outcomes serves for the more efficient use of assets to increase operating margins and revenue for hospitals and contributes to better clinical outcomes for patients. That's the educated assumption anyway.

As noted by EHR Intelligence, the observed disconnect between improvements in data availability through EHR systems and its impact on improving revenue and operations margins in hospitals "reflects a potential hesitance on the part of providers to use available data meaningfully."