According to a recent study, physicians who adopt electronic health-record systems risk losing money unless they make other changes to increase revenue and cut costs.
Julia Adler-Milstein, assistant professor at the University of Michigan's schools of information and public health, along with colleagues from the University of Rochester (N.Y.) and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, collected survey data to assess the return on investment in EHRs. In looking at 49 community practices across the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, an EHR pilot program, researchers found that the average physician lost $43,743 over a five-year period. Only 27% of those converting to EHRs earned a positive return on their investment.
“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,” Adler-Milstein said in a news release.
The greatest difference between practices that lost money on an EHR conversion and those that experienced a positive return was related to whether or not they used the new system to grow revenue. Offices that used the added technological efficiencies to add to their patient load or improve billing were ones where the bottom line was not negatively affected.
Though a federal incentive of up to $44,000 does exist for Medicare-serving physicians who adopt an electronic system, Adler-Milstein said it helps larger practices achieve a positive return, but is of little benefit to smaller ones. “It really highlights the drawback of a one-size-fits-all approach.”