Why Are So Many Clinics Losing Money on EHR Implementation?

According to a recent survey by IT hardware and software distributor CDW, LLC, an average-sized clinic can expect to spend around $120,000 per physician to implement a new EHR system. This includes productivity losses, hardware and software expenses, as well as training.

However, this figure doesn’t include the drop in revenue that many clinics usually see because of reduced patient encounters. Most clinics see a revenue drop of 10% the first year of implementation.

Even with the EHR incentives set out by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health, or HITECH Act (which amount to $44,000 per physician), without a doubt, implementing an EHR system will be the largest technology expense clinics will ever have.

The problem is that although EHR promises to revolutionize efficiency, improve patient care, and even allow physicians to see more patients, many clinics never see a full return on their investment. But why? Why do so many clinics lose money on their EHR implementation?

There are several factors that play a major role here.

1. Cutting Training

A successful EHR implementation takes time. Extensive training (as much as 10 hours or more per staff member) is needed to ensure that go-live is smooth.

Although many vendors offer training as part of their EHR package, some clinics don’t schedule enough time for everyone on their staff to be fully trained. As a result, many staff members are still unsure about using the system after go-live.

Accelerating through the workflow changes is, according to CDW, the best way clinics can see a return on their investment. The faster a clinic can transition to full adaptation, the faster they’re going to profitability. And, training is an integral part of this.

2. Cutting Corners

There’s no doubt that the cost of implementing an EHR system is steep. But many clinics lose big because they try to cut important corners in order to save money.

For instance, some clinics decide to cut costs on the amount of hardware they buy. Although having fewer tablets or workstations may seem like an easy way to save, the reality is that this can often impeded workflow and efficiency. Additionally, staff can get frustrated from the lack of open workstations, so they start printing material for later.

3. Choosing the Wrong System

EHR systems are widely different in their capabilities and features. And if a clinic chooses a system that doesn’t closely match their unique needs they can find themselves constantly losing money.

For instance, some EHR systems are not designed for a completely paperless office. Some clinics who didn’t understand this going in are unpleasantly surprised to find out they still have to pay for paper charts.

Other systems might not fully support all the services you offer to patients. This can require additional money spent on customization or work-arounds.

4. Installing Incomplete EHR Systems

Some practices will pay for and start implementing an EHR system, only to stop half way through.

For instance, they might buy the system and the equipment, but only use the EHR for portions of their billing or to handle prescriptions.

When clinics don’t use all the features of an EHR system, they can’t utilize all the benefits. So, the cost far outweighs the few benefits they do see.

5. Choosing Insufficient Hardware

Insufficient hardware is often the result of cutting corners to save money. But not having the right equipment, or enough workstations, to fully support an EHR system can have a major impact on the success of a full integration.

For instance, one clinic doesn’t want to invest in tablets for both doctors and nurses. So, they only buy enough tablets for their physicians. All nurses, on the other hand, have to use one mobile workstation located in the center of the clinic.

The problem is that because the nurses don’t have tablets, they still have to enter patient information on paper forms during the initial consultation, and then enter it into the center workstation so doctor’s can access it during their meeting with the patient. But because there is often a line at the workstation, many doctor’s can’t access the patient data when they need it. The bottleneck creates a very inefficient practice.

Final Word…

Many clinics end up losing money during the EHR selection and implementation process. But, it doesn’t have to be this way! Taking time to select a good system and investing in training will go a long way to ensuring your clinic realizes the full benefits of an EHR system.

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