Medical groups need to spend a lot of money to outfit, maintain and manage health information technology in their practices. According to a survey of physician groups conducted by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) of Englewood, Colorado, the cost of EHR is more than $32,500 per year for every single full-time doctor in the practice. MGMA’s survey found that information technology costs in physicians’ practices grew by 40% between 2009 and 2015, with the biggest jumps in 2010 and 2011. Healthcare IT costs can be expected to continue rising at substantial rates.
So Many Solutions; So Little Time & Understanding
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the options for EHR technology available in the marketplace. Practices on the hunt for tech investments must be mindful and specific for exactly what they need. A smart and focused practice can avoid much frustration and confusion by:
- determining their practice’s must-haves ahead of time
- knowing exactly what is required when purchasing technology
- Investigating open source technology options
- match the practice’s needs and work flow
The value in adopting open source products comes with certain caveats. These caveats include accepting patches, new features, and other support built by an interested community as opposed to a single source software maker. Potential inconveniences from use of open source technology are offset with the cost savings. Open source solutions can save organizations as much as 80% compared to proprietary competition.
EHR: More Convenience, Less Productivity
In an article published in September of 2016, Medical Economics reports the following:
Christine Sinsky, MD, an internist in Dubuque, Iowa, and vice president of professional satisfaction for the American Medical Association, believes that the MGMA average seriously understates the actual costs. “We think that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and that actual costs, less easily assessed, are substantially higher,” she says. “There is a 20% to 30% decrease in productivity from the adoption of EHRs that doesn’t go away,” she says. “There are also costs for physicians who opt to change their practice to part-time because of the demands of EHR, and for recruiting replacements for physicians who retire early because of it.”
“And there’s the one to two hours per night I consistently hear about from physicians across the country. They need to spend that additional time at home at night working on paperwork. So $32,500 doesn’t really cover the whole picture,” she says.
Five Strategies to Set You Free
From this research, we have identified five strategies for maximizing the practice’s EHR investments. From these strategies, we will provide real strategies for commoditizing your emerging IT expenses.
- Vendor communications & partnerships – a strong relationship between buyer and vendor can make or break any technology implementation. Choose the best vendor that fits your practice’s culture.
- Training, Training, Training – not all training programs are the same.
- Workflow optimization and the use of shortcuts – How physicians can get relief from administrative tasks, reduce duplicate entry of data, and save time by not having to search for records in multiple places.
- How to turn IT into a “utility” – You must budget for your monthly technology expenses, but also ensure regular system upgrades, hardware refresh, security testing, etc.
- Technology oversight and governance – A majority of organizations skip ahead to investment without first establishing guiding principles and policies to make informed decisions
In the next five articles, we will dive deep into each of these strategies.