EHR’s a Money Loser (Or is It?)

March 28, 2013
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EHR money loser? HISHealthLeaders Media has reported on a recent study that was conducted on whether or not the conversion from paper records to Electronic Health Records (EHR) is cost effective. The study was based on data received by surveying 49 community medical practices of various sizes and specialties in the state of Massachusetts.

EHR money loser? HISHealthLeaders Media has reported on a recent study that was conducted on whether or not the conversion from paper records to Electronic Health Records (EHR) is cost effective. The study was based on data received by surveying 49 community medical practices of various sizes and specialties in the state of Massachusetts.  The survey data was then analyzed in order to project whether physicians will experience a return on their EHR conversion investment over the next five years.

The study concluded that only 27 percent of physicians will benefit financially from converting to EHR without using the financial aid available from government incentives. Of the remainder, only a few of them will be in a break-even position and most will lose money even if they take advantage of the government incentives.  The study indicated that the average physician will lose approximately $8,000 a year over the next five years by converting to electronic records. 

There are some significant aspects to the report as to why certain medical groups will experience a monetary loss instead of the expected financial benefit from the conversion to electronic records. There are also some significant reasons why 27 percent will experience an increase in revenue. 

EHR coupled with improved billing procedures will result in revenue gains.

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Groups of primary care physicians with six or more members reaped the most financial benefit. One reason for this was attributed to the fact that using electronic records instead of paper records saved time, allowing the physicians to see more patients every day, which increased revenue.

The study found that the primary way in which converting to EHR will increase revenue is that it results in better billing procedures. Electronic records result in more accurate ICD codes being used for billing practices.  This results in fewer claims being rejected or returned for more information. This, of course, improves collection and increases revenue.

Reasons medical practices will lose revenue.

Approximately half of the medical practices surveyed continued keeping paper records in addition to electronic records. The doctors stated they felt in order to protect themselves against medical malpractice they needed to keep hard paper copies of their medical records. This duplication of medical records increased costs and is a major factor in the prediction that the average physician will lose money.

Small medical practices do not have the personnel capable of making the change. 

Conclusion.

According to the report, one way physicians can increase their revenue by converting to electronic records is by giving up their paper records and eliminating duplication.

The primary way to increase revenue is by using EHR to improve billing practices. Professional medical coders will be able to determine the most accurate ICD code that represents the medical services provided. Since payers reimburse physicians based on these codes, converting to EHR will result in more accurate billing and a resulting increase in revenue. 

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