A new EHR system is a significant practice expense and a major capital expendature. Before embarking on an EHR implementation or upgrade, your practice needs to know whether your new system will be cost-effective and worth the investment.
Here is what your practice needs to know about EHR cost-effectiveness.
EHRs Are Cost Effective When Implemented Right
Studies have found that EHRs generally have a positive return on investment (ROI) in primary care and other ambulatory settings. For example, one study found that, among 17 primary care clinics, the average practice recouped their EHR investment within 10 months. This positive return-on-investment was driven by improvements in practice efficiency. After EHR implementation, practices could see more patients and reduce their patient-to-staff ratio. Another study found that EHRs saved about $5 per member per month in total health care costs. This means EHRs may not just be cost-effective for your practice, but for the overall health care system.
Achieving a positive return on investment requires more than just purchasing an EHR system, however. EHR cost savings come from practice improvements like more efficient appointment scheduling, integrated billing, and less staff time pulling and maintaining charts. These advantages however may require your practice to invest in EHR training and workflow redesign.
You Can Make Your EHR More Cost Effective with Workflow Changes
EHR systems can make your practice more efficient. But to do so, you must integrate your EHR into your practice workflows in a way that makes sense for all users. A workflow is a process your practice uses to complete a task, like a patient office visit. To maximize your EHR cost effectiveness, you need to examine and redesign your workflows.
Workflow redesign starts with mapping your current workflows for key practice tasks. Armed with this information, you can then determine how your new EHR will intersect with these existing workflows. You can also identify current gaps and bottlenecks that you can address during the workflow redesign process. Plan to include both clinical and non-clinical staff in this process to ensure you capture current workflows accurately.
After you have mapped your current workflows and identified changes to accommodate your EHR system and fix problems, you can begin designing your new workflows. New workflows should be as close as possible to old workflows to minimize disruption and ensure take-up of your new processes. They should also integrate your EHR at every step to ensure accurate, complete data collection. Providers and non-clinical staff can test these new workflows and provide input to ensure they work in your practice. If your workflows within your EHR require too much time spent doing redundant or unnecessary tasks, any costs savings gained through implementation are quickly depleted.
Third-party consultants like TempDev can help you redesign your workflows to fit with your new EHR system. TempDev can also help you train your staff in your new workflows. Training reduces EHR-driven burnout and increases satisfaction with your EHR system.
Plan Your EHR Budget with an Eye Toward Cost Effectiveness
While EHR systems are cost effective on average, each practice is unique. To get the most out of your EHR implementation, you need to plan for cost effectiveness in advance. This means setting a realistic budget for hardware, software, and training. It also means investing in workflow redesign to ensure your staff members use your new EHR system in their daily tasks. It also means setting up a budget for any configuration or EHR customizations needed to your EHR to ensure you are maximizing your physicians, nurses, and staff time.
Once you have a rough budget, you can begin shopping for EHR systems that fit your practice’s needs. Small practices can save money upfront by subscribing to a cloud-based EHR system rather than purchasing software that will reside on internal servers. These systems have lower initial hardware and software costs but require an annual subscription. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT estimates that cloud-based systems cost an average of $26,000 per provider upfront, compared to $33,000 for in-office systems.
Once you have selected your system, you may need to upgrade computers and other hardware to support your new EHR. Slow computers and networks are common causes of EHR slowdowns. If you roll out a new EHR system on old equipment, you risk slowdowns that can cause data entry errors, increased frustration, and decrease confidence in your system.
Your EHR implementation budget should also not skimp on training. Providers and non-clinical staff need EHR and workflow training to be ready to use your new system on day one. Training also improves satisfaction with your system, which helps your practice build on initial implementation to integrate new EHR tools over time. Plan for both initial and ongoing training to support both EHR implementation and process improvements to maximize your practice efficiency. Don't just budget for the trainer time but also allow for your staff to take time off to receive training so it is as effective as possible rather than on the fly while they are engaged with patient care.
How TempDev Can Help Your Practice Implement a Cost-Effective EHR System
TempDev’s consultants, developers, and trainers are NextGen experts. Whether your practice is considering a new NextGen EHR and EPM system or looking to improve your workflows, team TempDev can help. From custom templates and dashboards to training and project management, TempDev has the tools you need to get more out of your EHR system.
Call us at 888-TEMP-DEV or contact us here to schedule a consultation with TempDev.