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EHR a Money-Loser for Most Physicians

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 5, 2013

Adopting electronic health records appears to be a money-losing proposition for most physicians, especially specialists and those in smaller physician groups.

The average physician would lose $43,743 over five years after adopting EHRs and only 27% of physicians would profit through the transition away from paper records without federal financial aid. And even when the $44,000 in meaningful use incentives are added to the pot, only 41% of physicians would be in the black, according to the study published this month in Health Affairs.

The study examined data gleaned from 49 community practices of varying sizes and specialties that were part of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, an EHR pilot project. Meaningful use incentives were not in place for the period examined by the study. However, the study authors added the value of the meaningful use incentives on top of their initial projections.

"We knew the literature said that in general practices tend to be able to recoup the cost of the EHR investment in a relatively short period of time and this was the first opportunity to study a wide and more diverse group," study coauthor Julia Adler-Milstein of the University of Michigan School of Information and School of Public Health said in an phone interview.

"What we had heard from practices was how hard it is to make the transitions from paper to electronic health records. These are your typical practices. A lot of them are very small and they don't have the organizational capabilities to support a major organizational change. We continued to be reminded as we worked with these practices and collected this financial data how they are trying to run a small business and this is a very challenging experience to go through."

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5 comments on "EHR a Money-Loser for Most Physicians"


Dinesh Patel MD (3/8/2013 at 2:15 PM)
The basic benefit from EHR is health, welfare and safety of patients we love together with improved quality, reduction of redundancy and cost . This thought certainly is well known but in order to achieve there are many factors apart from EHR cost Participation of patients , infrastructure IT management and willingness of empowered people to listen from actual practitioners and keep the necessary element in meaningful use and not force folks such as-specialist to spend time in core and menu items [INVALID] may create error or omissions The thought that senior doctors can not type as good as young ones and that is an obstacle is myth. Who says they have to type They h ave to enter data EHR is wonderful tool and that will be quite a joy when you give visit summary report to patient end of visit and go over No better doctor patient relationships Do it as it s not EHR but it is the environment of providing art of healing to hurt from regulations ,consumers and politicians mistrust and compensation below the par looking at the life and death decisions health care providers make for the good of children's disabled elderly women and uninsured Sequestrations has been going on in health care and will continue so fight the challenge as health of the nation will improve by providing good care Best Debate and make impact Dinesh

civisisus (3/5/2013 at 11:14 AM)
substitute "office lighting", or "carpeting" or even "suture" or "tongue depressor" for "EHR", and the story reads the same. Grow some brain cells; In capable hands, EHR is a tool. In fact, unlike those other, humbler tools, EHR has the potential to be a more useful tool, the more that other physicians capably use it as well. That most physicians or physician groups do not yet have capable hands does not change that fact.

Tyco Brahe (3/5/2013 at 10:20 AM)
The US is very early in EHR adoption. It's premature to consider the steep learning curve as part of the reason EHR may make physicians lose money at first. Later, EHRs will allow physicians to code better and to help with malpractice claims. Overall, the entire health system will benefit because EHRs improve care coordination and prevent duplication. Certainly, however, physicians may lose money because they won't order tests and scans that another doctor ordered before them[INVALID]but you can't blame EHR for that. American healthcare has to move forward and not remain in the paper chart dark ages.