First-Year EHR-Related Revenue Losses Could Trump $120K Per Physician

December 16, 2010

When it comes to EHR implementation, a newly released study reveals physician practices are most concerned about hardware and software costs - but a loss in revenues from fewer patient visits could carry much higher price tag.

When it comes to EHR implementation, a newly released study reveals physician practices are most concerned about hardware and software costs - but a loss in revenues from fewer patient visits could carry much higher price tag.

In technology provider CDW Healthcare’s survey of 200 U.S. physician practices that have not yet adopted an EHR, 66 percent of respondents flagged hardware costs as their chief concern. Fewer than half of those - just 32 percent of respondents - cited loss of revenue as their biggest worry.

But losing just 10 percent of visit-based revenues per year - just a few patients a day as your practice gets up to speed - could mean losing more than $100,000 per physician, according to CDW researchers.

What’s worse, 38 percent of survey respondents said they expect to see patient encounters drop 25 percent or more in the first year of EHR implementation - or at least $120,000 per physician.

“Survey responses indicate that physicians are worried about the costs of hardware and software components when they should focus on implementing a complete solution that reduces the time lost to work flow changes,” said Bob Rossi, vice president of CDW Healthcare.

While physician practices aren’t clueless about the upfront costs - and the fact that federal incentives won’t completely buffer financial loss - those who’ve yet to implement their EHR system might want to brace for a slower-than-hoped-for return on investment.

More than half (56 percent) of practices who answered our 2010 Physicians Practice Technology Survey said it took six months to a year to complete implementation, while one in 10 needed up to 18 months. Fifty-seven percent of respondents who haven’t forked over the cash yet said Medicare- and Medicaid-based incentive programs set to launch in 2011 make them more likely to buy an EHR.

The good news is that once your practice takes the plunge, a return on investment is most certainly expected: CDW’s “Physician Practice EHR Price Tag” study estimates that practices could gain up to $151,000 per physician per year in new revenues once everything is up and running.

“The most important factor in reducing the cost of EHR implementation is accelerating through the work flow changes,” said Rossi. “The quicker practices can reach full adoption, the quicker they will reach the positive side of the cost curve.”