The Benefits of EHR are Many, but Most Small Practices Miss Out

Happy Physician and Nurse

A recent article in InformationWeek highlighted the slow progress in small and midsize physician practices in expanding the use and realizing the benefits of EHR technology in their offices.  A survey of small practices revealed that on average, such practices use only about 20% of the capabilities of their EHR systems.  The major use made of an EHR system is visit notes, with few practices using systems for patient outreach for care (disease registries), clinical decision support, quality measurement and even e-prescribing.

Small Practice EHR’s: Choices, Price, and Selection Process

Certainly small medical practices face a steeper hill to climb when it comes to EHR systems, from evaluating and deciding on a system, to implementing it with minimal practice disruption, to maximizing use of the capabilities they offer.  And the services offered by RECs/LECs don’t include the last issue – maximizing use beyond achieving Meaningful Use.

We used to think the introduction of criteria for certified EHR Technology would start to narrow the field of systems to choose from, but there are still almost 300 systems that are fully or partially certified.  And prices still range from free to $15k to $20k per physician just for the initial license fee.  How to choose?

Implementing an EHR System in a Small Practice

Even after selecting an EHR system, implementing it is a daunting task in most small practices.  Just converting from paper and pen to digital for progress notes is a huge change for most physicians.  Physicians have to go from mainly paying attention to what the patient is saying to recording the visit in their electronic record – while still paying attention to the patient.  It isn’t too surprising many practices don’t get much beyond that point.  (After all, how many of us use the capabilities of our word processing or spreadsheet programs to the max?)

EHR ROI:  Your EHR System as an Investment

So what to do?  One way to look at the implementation of an EHR system is to consider it as an investment the same way you would consider an investment in a new revenue-generating piece of equipment or expanded facilities.  When making such an investment, you consciously think of ways to maximize your return on investment.  Why aren’t practices doing the same with the investment in EHR technology?

EHR ROI comes in many forms:

1)  efficiency of activities like prescription refills and charge capture;

2)  improved medical documentation and coding;

3)  quality enhancements through patient outreach and better adherence to clinical protocols; and

4)  meaningful use incentive payments.

Will You Realize the Benefits of EHR in Your Practice?

Encouraging physicians and practices to find ways to maximize the return on their investment in EHR technology is one way to begin improving on that 20% figure cited above!

Selecting the right system for your practice requires focus and dedication – and above all, due diligence!  To learn more about selecting and implementing an EHR system download a free copy of our EHR Technology Reference Guide.  This complete 26 page booklet is a logical and sequential description of the process:  “The Art and Science of Evaluating, Selecting, and Implementing an Electronic Health Records System”.

When you need proven expertise and performance

Jim Hook, MPH

Mr. James D. Hook has over 30 years of healthcare executive management and consulting experience in medical groups, hospitals, IPA’s, MSO’s, and other healthcare organizations.

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