Does EHR Reduce Healthcare Costs?

Posted on April 24, 2012 by | 0 comments

I recently stumbled across a Linked-In discussion “EHR Not Reducing Healthcare Costs – Do You Agree?” in the MedicExchange group that I am a part of. As I began reading some of the comments, It was clear that there are still a lot of skeptics when it comes to cost savings and EHR. It became apparent to me that many physicians and healthcare specialists are missing the big picture. The savings may not be instantly evident, but without question, over time EHR’s will save healthcare and individual practices money. My answer to the discussion question is absolutely NOT. EHR will save money in two ways: First: Savings from inefficiencies in the office; and second: reduction of duplicate tests, scans, etc.

1. Savings From Inefficiencies in the Office

This is where the small, individual practices will see the savings. As I discussed in my last blog, “Writing A Script May Not Always Be The Best Medicine,” without EHRs several tedious and time consuming processes hinder workflow efficiencies. Something like a medication recall could take hours, maybe even days to straighten out manually. Whether it becomes the responsibility of your staff or if you shoulder it yourself, the time and energy you spend on manual processes is money lost. That’s time that you could be seeing other patients or preparing for the day ahead, and time that your staff could be running the office and not searching through charts. Why not optimize your practice and streamline those tedious chores with EHR? Two simple principles apply here: 1.) A more efficient records system will generate more revenue, and  2.) time lost is money lost.

2. Reduction of Duplicate Scans, Tests, etc.

Over time, as more physicians get on board with EHR, healthcare will see a reduction of duplicate scans and tests. Over testing is costing healthcare an estimated $210 billion a year. One of the most frequent reasons for ordering tests is defensive medicine, which is the fear of being sued by patients for not ordering a test. EHRs enable physicians to view patient histories, including tests that have already been ordered by other physicians, and to determine the best course of action, without ordering unnecessary tests.

How many patients do you know that hop from doctor to doctor? Especially when they are told something they don’t want to hear. I personally know an elderly gentleman, who is extremely stubborn. He has a bad back and insists on having surgery. So he will hop from doc to doc, getting MRI’s and X-rays along the way from each physician, until he finds one that says what he wants to hear. He has dozens of scans that are ultimately the same, just ordered by different physicians. Had these physicians he visited been onboard with EHR, thousands of dollars could have been saved by retrieving previous scans; instead of ordering new ones each time.

One member of the discussion brought up an excellent point: “The intention of a practice adopting EHR is not to reduce healthcare costs, but to reduce clinical errors and expedite patient care.” He is absolutely right! In actuality, EHR will save healthcare money, but let’s not forget the real reasons why adoption is so important – improving your practice and improving patient care.

Bottom line: we need to reengineer our thinking regarding healthcare. We need to view healthcare beyond the address of a small local practice and think national. EHR’s will save healthcare money, but it requires participation from physicians nationwide. I encourage physicians to start looking into EHR now, if they have not already. Stimulus monies are still available. Why not get paid to better your practice, provide better care for your patients and help improve communication within healthcare nationwide?

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