EHR Adoption Costs Medical Practices $120,000 Per Physician: Report

In a new report, CDW Healthcare estimates initial revenue losses for physician practices due to EHR costs, but predicts monetary gains upon completion of training.

Adoption of an EHR (electronic health record) application could cost a physician $120,000 in one year, CDW Healthcare reports in its Physician Practice EHR Price Tag study.

CDW Healthcare sells a wide variety of hardware, software and support packages for medical practices, including unified communications, security and mobile devices.

Training of physicians on EHR platforms during the adoption period will lead to a 10 percent average loss in patient appointments in the first year of use, but then productivity should pick up, CDW reports in its survey of 200 physician practices over a six-month period.

By using EHRs to speed up their workflow, physicians will be able to see 15 percent more patients and gain about $150,000 in annual revenue when EHR platforms are fully implemented, according to CDW.

"Through a more efficient use of the system, it actually accelerates the speed by which you or your staff can provide care," John Karl, director of sales for CDW Healthcare, told eWEEK.

Although 66 percent of respondents mentioned hardware and software costs as their main concerns in EHR adoption, these areas comprise only 12 percent of total EHR adoption costs. A more significant cost factor was a loss in revenue due a workflow slowdown.

On average, physicians in the survey expected a 10 percent loss in workflow during the first year, but 40 percent of respondents predicted that patient visits would fall by 25 percent or more in year one.

To minimize the potential reduction in productivity during the transition to EHRs, Karl advises that physician practices invest heavily in training. "Move as quickly as possible to bring your staff up to speed," he said. "The longer you take to adopt, the longer your productivity suffers and the greater the cost over time," he explained.

With faster adoption comes adherence to the government's meaningful use guidelines for EHRs. "The quicker you're able to integrate the solution into your practice, the quicker you're recouping your investment and setting your path to meaningful use," Karl explained.

To help physicians quicken their EHR adoption, CDW announced it would offer an EHR platform based on Greenway Medical Technologies' PrimeSuite, a comprehensive package that stores clinical, administrative and financial data.

In performing the survey, CDW's goal was to inform physicians about the costs to expect when implementing EHR applications, Karl said. "There hasn't been a comprehensive guide to tell the physician what the costs are," he noted.

In the Dec. 13 report, CDW also highlighted the potential benefits of cloud computing in EHR implementation. Of the respondents, 38 percent were considering cloud computing, which would cut $4,400 from the costs of hardware, software, services, telecom and data center environment (power and cooling) per physician.

Medical practices could save some money by using EHRs with existing hardware and software, the report suggested. The average age for practices' workstations in the survey was three years. By waiting five years to upgrade workstation, server and storage infrastructure, doctor's offices could save $4,700 in the first year on hardware and $1,240 in the first year on software, CDW reports.

Still, many practices will need to upgrade their security software to keep medical records safe, the report added. Of the respondents, 30 percent lacked antivirus protection, 34 percent did without a firewall and 72 percent failed to encrypt their networks.