Are You Spending Too Much on Your EHR?

February 16, 2016

By: Lea Chatham Spending too much money on your current EHR or it just isn’t quite right for your practice? Here are tips for choosing a new EHR for righting those wrongs.

Today most providers have gone through the process of buying an EHR and deploying it into their daily practice. Thanks to meaningful use (MU), the percentage of physicians using an EHR has jumped to 85 percent.

For better or worse, in the past few years, many of the EHR decisions made by physicians were based on compliance with government mandates. Receiving an incentive or avoiding a penalty was often a motivating factor, preempting ease-of-use, patient care, and other key features.

Now that the dust has settled a bit on meaningful use, physicians are finding dissatisfaction with their first EHR choice and up to 60 percent are looking to make change. They are seeking different functionality, a better fit with their practice, and more reasonable cost.

The high cost of EHRs played a big role in MU. The incentives were intended to drive adoption and offset that cost. Until recently, most EHRs were client-server based and expensive. Data suggests the average EHR purchased in the early days of MU (2011) cost $164,000 for a single provider and $233,000 for a five-provider practice in just the first year. Upgrades were complicated and costly, most didn’t provide cloud or mobile access, and the practice had to bear the burden of hardware maintenance, security, and backups. The ongoing cost to support all this was $85,500 per year after the first year.

A lot has changed in the last five years. We are now in the new world of cloud-based, mobile EHRs and it has created a different picture, especially around cost. While 60 percent of EHR users are still on a client-server EHR, this is beginning to change. Cloud-based EHRs offer many benefits, including reduced cost. Initial cost is roughly $3600 - much less than previously spent in the first year - with lower ongoing costs as well. Even if you factor in reduced productivity for six months to a year, the cost is around $30,000 for the first year. That is one fifth the first year cost of a client-server EHR and about one-third the per year cost after that.

For practices looking to bring down EHR expenses while also enhancing the user experience, cloud-based EHRs offer:

1. Lower cost infrastructure

2. More robust access and mobility

3. Native mobile applications

4. Automatic upgrades and backups

When combined with an integrated practice management and billing application, the benefits are two-fold. The practice gets lowers costs combined with the improved efficiency thanks to a shared patient database.

In addition, those systems that offer open application programming interfaces (APIs) can also be more easily integrated with other applications. As a result, they are better positioned for the future, where interoperability and data sharing will play a larger role. The financial benefits of an EHR are more tangible with a low-cost cloud solutions too.

If you are looking to reduce your EHR costs, and get more options and flexibility, a cloud-based EHR may be for you. Take a look and you might be surprised at the options you now have just five years after the start of MU.