Doctors' offices that adopt electronic health record systems but don't make additional changes in their practices to cut costs stand to lose money, according to a new study.
Doctors’ offices that adopt electronic health record (EHR) systems but don’t make additional changes in their practices to cut costs stand to lose money, according to a new study published in the March issue of the journal Health Affairs.
Researchers found that the average physician would lose $43,743 over five years by adopting an EHR system, while just 27% of practices would have achieved a positive return on investment. Only 14% of practices would have come out ahead had they received $44,000 federal meaningful-use incentive, designed to encourage adoption of EHR systems, according to the study.
“What our research shows is that a substantial fraction of physicians who adopt these systems don’t make the additional changes in the practice that they need to recoup the cost of adoption,” says Julia Adler-Milstein, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, who led the study of 49 community practices in a large EHR pilot program.
The biggest difference between practices that lost money and practices with a positive return on investment was whether or not they used the new EHR system to increase revenue, says Alder-Milstein. Offices that experienced a positive return saw more patients or improved billing so that fewer claims were rejected and higher reimbursements were captured from insurance companies.
Adler-Milstein worked with colleagues from the University of Rochester and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to collect survey data from practices participating in the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative in order to project five-year returns on investment from EHRs.
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