Measuring the Return on Investment after Implementing an EHR

July 18, 2014

Measuring a return on investment for EHRs is not only key to showing the project paid off; it can also ensure ongoing success and adoption.

Measuring a return on investment for EHRs is not only key to showing the project paid off; it can also ensure ongoing success and adoption. Here are some steps to take to ensure you are calculating your ROI appropriately:

1. Involve multiple members of the organization. Implementing an EHR is a major initiative that should be undertaken only after a thoughtful analysis of the costs and benefits involved. To do this, involve representatives from operational areas throughout the organization. That will ensure you are identifying all of the potential for cost savings and additional revenue opportunities.

2. Consider often underestimated costs. In addition to the costs directly associated with the EHR, such as purchasing and licensing fees, there are also EHR-related costs that may not be as easy to recognize and calculate.  These costs include hardware and database servers, desktop computers, tablets and laptops, printers and scanners, as well as fees for custom interfaces and ongoing annual maintenance.  These changes may also affect productivity initially, due to change management, transitions in work flow, and other time constraints associated with electronic versus paper records.  Also, the training for providers and staff will cost time and money to adapt the EHR system to specific needs and preferences within the practice. 

3. Consider the benefits. EHRs may increase revenue, primarily from more accurate higher-level coding. Some providers may also see additional patients due to efficiency improvements. In addition, some practices are able to eliminate staff and supply redundancies because of a more efficient system.

Many practices will be able to eliminate transcribers and medical records clerks, which means lower overhead.  By using a forward-thinking EHR, providers will be able to spend less time on clinical charting, therefore, seeing more patients without extending the work day.

A recent study concluded that achieving a return on investment is a realistic goal even for smaller practices.  According to this study, practices were able to cover the cost of the EHR in approximately 2.5 years, and then received an average of approximately $23,000 per year per full-time employee in net benefits due to the EHR.  This study also found that much of the ROI consisted of efficiency gains and increases in revenue.  Keep in mind, the incentives gained through demonstrating meaningful use can add to the return on investment.

In the future, EHRs should be able to provide granular data collection using robust data systems, which will enable them to generate coding for patient encounters.  This will lead to accurate billing that will match the CMS guidelines.  These systems will help practices improve clinical and financial analytics for calculating ROI on EHR implementation in an efficient, accurate, and scalable manner.