Well-implemented EMRs can certainly generate Meaningful Use incentive payoffs, but that’s far from the only way that they can help a practice generate return on their EHR investment.
According to “Return on Investment in EHRs,” a whitepaper sponsored by GBS, HP, Intel and Nextgen, properly implemented EHRs can do a great deal to generate ROI for medical practice above and beyond qualifying them for MU payoffs.
The paper notes that many practices have achieved a return on investment in their EHRs without receiving external incentives. As it points out, a Health Affairs study from 2005 found that while initial EHR costs averaged $44,000 per full-time equivalent, and ongoing costs averaged $8,500 per provider per year, the average practice paid for EHR costs in 2.5 years and generated a profit after that.
Eleven of the 14 practices studied by Health Affairs had “tightly integrated” EHR and practice management systems, a factor the paper contends was highly relevant to their success with their EHR implementation. Not only did providers use the EHR for common tasks, almost all used it to help with billing. Ten of the practices no longer pull paper charts at all, the study noted.
EHRs also improve efficiency and productivity in the following ways, the paper argues:
* More appropriate coding: Properly-designed EHRs help physicians with coding by displaying the appropriate code based on the documentation entered during a patient encounter. This avoids costly undercoding.
* Greater efficiency: The use of point-and-click templates lessens and in some cases eliminates transcription costs, which can be up to 11 percent of collections.
* Reduction in soft costs: Fully-enabled EHRs also remove many “soft costs” that practices occur, such as the time it takes to call in prescriptions. Also, once doctors learn how to use the EHR, they can complete most of the notes during or between patient visits, leaving them with time to either see more patients or go home earlier.
It’s great to think that medical practices can generate ROI on their EHR investment, but given that the sponsors of this paper have their own agenda, I’m not taking everything they say at face value. What do you think, readers? Have you seen situations in which practice EHRs generate significant ROI independently of what they take in in Meaningful Use dollars?