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Do EMR's Save Money?

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Does EMR really save money? Not by itself. It just makes saving money possible.

Recent Article from Healthcare IT News:

Health Affairs paper: EHR savings, benefits questionable

It’s unclear whether electronic health records will reduce healthcare costs or improve care, according to a new paper in the journal Health Affairs.

The author argues that a literature review of studies on EHRs show that the technology can lead to increased billing, make doctors less productive and does not change provider-to-patient ratios.

Absent other fundamental interventions that alter medical practice, it is unlikely that the U.S. health care bill will decline as a result of the EHR alone,” writes Jaan Sidorov, MD, an associate in the department of general internal medicine at Geisinger Medical Center, in Danville, Pa.

The paper, published in the July/August issue of Health Affairs, examined EHRs in ambulatory care. However, the study’s author says the research could also apply to hospitals and other inpatient settings. Sidorov said the paper was not intended to examine all of the arguments in favor of EHRs

The author argues that installation and maintenance expenses or EHRs will be
passed to the consumer through increased billings. Without improvements in care quality or efficiency, “costs are likely to be accelerated,” he writes. He also writes that the literature on potential medical error reduction is unclear.

A study by the Rand Corp. found that national adoption of the EHRs could result in more than $81 billion in annual savings.

In an interview with Healthcare IT News, Sidorov said that although EHRs can be useful in facilitating pay-for-performance programs and management of chronically ill patients, it’s just one tool to provide better care.

The EHR is necessary to make that happen, but not sufficient,” said Sidorov, who practices in a paperless environment.

Some in the healthcare IT community agreed that technology alone is not the answer.

EMRs are not a silver bullet. They are a tool,” said Carla Smith, executive vice president of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

Michael Davis, executive vice president of HIMSS Analytics, the research arm of HIMSS, said that most EHR users have not installed some of the advanced functions that are expected to bring improvements in care and reduced costs.

People simply haven’t implemented enough of the EMR to realize the impact,” he said.

David Merritt, a project director with the Center for Health Transformation in Washington, D.C, said that while EHR implementations can cause short-term declines in physician productivity, the long-term benefits outweigh near-term setbacks.

“There are a lot of difficulties [with EHRs] to overcome,” Merritt said. “Overtime, those will be minimized by the benefits that everyone will see.”

Comment: Surprisingly, I agree with the basic message of this (although the headline is misleading).  The key statements are highlighted by me.  The fact is that implementation by itself will not change much in heathcare, but it will enable change to happen.  This is the first step in a process that must proceed for healthcare to get out of this fiscal crisis.

I have always felt that EMR is not the final goal.  The goal is to be efficient, not paperless.  The goal is to do good medicine, not computers.  It is impossible, however, to become efficient and to practice truly good medicine without EMR.

Another important point here is the failure of most offices to use the advanced features of EMR.  Most companies focus on the documentation of physician visits as the main benefit of EMR, but the benefits of improved process far exceed that.  That is why it is so important for physicians to buy a good EMR system and not just focus on cost.

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from InsureBlog on Tue, 07/18/2006 - 6:07am

Dr Rob Lambert has more on this over at The Medical Blog Network. As a practicing physician himself, he has a unique - and helpful - perspective on the issue.

EMR (Electronic Medical Records) is a hot topic these days. HIPAA has some EMR m...

from on Thu, 07/13/2006 - 10:59am

In the Medical Blog Network, I have reviewed an article in Healthcare IT News that discusses the benefits of EHR. It is not surprising to me that an EHR itself does not save money, it is what an EHR enables you to do that saves money.

Comments (5)

Submitted by Gary Levin M.D. (not verified) on Mon, 07/17/2006 - 7:41am.

Rob, you are certainly correct in that EMR can be a disruptive technology during implementation.  Work flow and technology often do not go hand in hand for some time, and it is vital that a software vendor be available to "tweak" the EMR for some situations.  One challenge is that even amongst one specialty, MDs practice somewhat differently.

RHIOs and EMRs should fit seamlessly together...but that will take some time to occur. 

Many practices are driven to adopt practice management and/or EMR systems to capture lost revenues that are lost in the reimbursement cycles of eligibility, and authorization determinations. Jeff Rose of Health Alliant points out that the ROI for EMR/and RHIO is highest in this area.  The implication here is not that physicians will "bill more", but actually code correctly and capture lost revenues, and reduce expense for the billing cycle.    This is all going to cost money.  My take on the RHIO is that everyone wants someone else to pay for it, except as it pertains to payment.

Other factors that  are being dragged into EMRs and RHIOs are hidden agendas by all sorts of people who make aliving from UR,  Quality assurance, etc.  I take a hard line when the insurance companies come to me and say they will pay me more for p4p, outcomes, etc. They want to  pay for it after the fact.  We as physicians never demand  upfront reimbursement for these types of seachanges.

I should go out and "borrow" to put in a system to prove to someone my outcomes are good?  There is something about this idea that has a fatal flaw.

There are good reasons why physicians are dragging their feet to implement EMR.  Most practices are strapped financially, so if all these "health related industries" want data, let them pay to get it.

Submitted by EMR Medical (not verified) on Thu, 05/13/2010 - 6:36am.

Yes it saves money. Nowadays many doctors are now taking advantage of the internet to conduct web consultations. It able to access patient data from anywhere in the world via a secure connection even allows the doctor to conduct web consultations or generate reports from home. Health maintenance reminders that can be automatically generated from an EMR system also contribute to providing improved patient care.

Submitted by lace wig (not verified) on Wed, 07/27/2011 - 5:12am.

This is all going to cost money. My take on the RHIO is that everyone wants someone else to pay for it, except as it pertains to payme.

Submitted by veterinary technician salary (not verified) on Thu, 07/28/2011 - 12:28pm.

your article is really very informative
Thanks for sharing it

Submitted by sell wow account (not verified) on Tue, 10/04/2011 - 2:13pm.


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