I’ve written often about the cost-savings physicians, clinics, and hospitals can see with EHR.
According to an article in iHealthBeat, citing research from RAND Corporation, cost-savings have been falling below users’ expectations in part because of the sluggish adoption pace, and the lack of interoperability. Another factor that’s slowing the savings is the reluctance of physicians and support staff to learn and adopt this new technology; many of them simply don’t have time to learn the ins and outs of an EHR system.
Although tech support wasn’t cited as a specific concern in the iHealthBeat article, another study, this one published in PhysBizTech states that tech support is incredibly crucial during and long after an EHR implementation. Research shows it takes a minimum of nine months of constant EHR exposure, and at least 8-9 technical assistance visits, to demonstrate significant improvements.
Now, this particular study was focused on patient care improvements, not cost-savings, but you can easily see the parallel. Clinics who don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on technical assistants are going to see their cost-savings opportunities fall quickly when physicians need help using the system, and that help isn’t there. The EHR system will also fail to saving a clinic money if it crashes, and it takes days for help to arrive because there’s no in-house support staff.
These two studies, when looked at together, offer a number of lessons for smaller clinics. First, EHR can help you save money and improve patient care. But you can’t implement a system if your physicians and support staff aren’t willing to invest the time and energy needed to learn this new technology. If they’re aren’t, then you might be wasting your money.
Another key lesson is support; tech support is crucial before GoLive, and in the year that follows the system’s implementation. Clinics should over-budget for support to make sure they have the help they need while they’re learning the system, and when it goes down.