Hospitalists are increasingly involved in implementing quality improvement initiatives around patient safety, clinical informatics, and transitions of care, but may lack expertise in promoting these important interventions. Developing a sound business case is essential to garnering support and resources for any quality improvement initiative. We present a framework for developing a business case using a structured approach to exploring qualitative and quantitative costs and benefits and describe its application in the experience of developing an electronic discharge summary at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). At our institution, we found that the primary financial benefits are the cost reductions in eliminating transcription needs and decreasing billing delays, as well as reducing the cost of tracking completion of and dissemination of discharge summaries. Costs incurred from a new information technology (IT) infrastructure, programmer time, maintenance and training must also be accounted for. While benefits may be apparent to front line providers (improved communication, efficiency of data transfer, and increased referring physician satisfaction), implementing and sustaining such an innovation depends on articulating a sound business case with a detailed cost-benefit analysis to institutional decision making.