Do EHRs Make Sense from a Financial Perspective?

November 17, 2016

From this doctor's point of view, EHRs make little sense when it comes to dollars and cents.

Do EHRs make sense from a financial perspective?

A few days ago, my partner and I had a meeting with our IT consultant to consider some necessary hardware upgrades to our EHR system. We have had an EHR since 2008, and although, I have not specifically added up all of the costs involved in purchasing and maintaining our system to date, it adds up to several hundred thousand dollars.

We were able to collect the maximum amount of Meaningful Use incentive payments, which seemed like a reasonable amount of money until you start looking at the ongoing costs of maintaining and upgrading our current system. As you might expect, this includes everything from the yearly software licenses, to buying new desktops, monitors, fax machines, and scanners. Then, there is the monthly internet fees, IT maintenance fees, and finally there is the time that is required to make decisions on all of these items.

Usually, after a business meeting related to an office related purchase, an assessment of the potential benefits with the associated costs will yield a relatively quick and confident decision. For our IT purchases, I usually leave the meeting feeling anxious and unsettled. After analyzing my feelings, one source of my anxiety is that I will be making large dollar purchases of equipment that will not increase my revenue, but add to my cost.

When we first purchased our EHR system, I remember the salesman explicitly telling me that our new system, through increased efficiency in seeing more patients, would increase revenues significantly. I can say unequivocally, for our practice and for every organization that uses an EHR, that revenues never increased and costs related to the EHR continue to increase exponentially. EHRs, however, are here to stay for me and most other physicians, not because they increase profits, but for reasons such as legibility, e-prescribing, accessibility and potential research opportunities. To answer the question posed at the beginning of this post, buying and maintaining an EHR does not make sense from a financial perspective.