Doctors who adopt electronic health records may lose money

March 5, 2013, University of Michigan
Doctors who adopt electronic health records may lose money

Physician offices that move to electronic health record systems, but don't make additional changes in the practice to enhance revenue and cut costs for services no longer needed, stand to lose money, a University of Michigan researcher says.

And a $44,000 federal incentive to encourage conversion to EHRs may not be enough to prevent losses, particularly for small practices.

In an article published in the March issue of , Julia Adler-Milstein, assistant professor at the U-M School of Information and School of Public , and colleagues report on a study of 49 community practices in a large EHR .

They found that the average physician lost $43,743 over five years, and only 27 percent of practices showed a positive return on investment.

Doctors have expressed reluctance to adopt electronic systems out of concern about the impact on their bottom line, the researchers say.

"What our research shows is that a substantial fraction of physicians who adopt these systems don't make the additional changes in the practice that they need to recoup the cost of adoption," Adler-Milstein said.

The largest difference between those that lost money and those with a positive return on investment was whether or not they used the new system to increase revenue, she says. Offices that experienced a positive return saw more patients or improved billing to achieve fewer rejected claims and higher reimbursement from insurance companies.

Adler-Milstein and colleagues from the University of Rochester and Brigham and Women's Hospital collected survey data from practices participating in the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative in order to project five-year returns on investment from EHRs.

The collaborative, established in 2004 by the American College of Physicians and the Massachusetts Medical Society, was charged with facilitating adoption of EHRs in three and assessing the impact on health care cost and quality.

Widespread EHR adoption is the central goal of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health provisions within the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Physicians serving Medicare patients that move to an electronic system are eligible for an incentive of up to $44,000.

Adler-Milstein says incentives were deemed necessary to help address physicians' concerns that they would bear the cost of implementing EHRs but not reap the benefits from the higher-quality, lower-cost care they enable.

The study found, however, that the incentive only resulted in an additional 14 percent of practices achieving a positive return on investment.

"The incentive helps, but in a very uneven way," said Adler-Milstein, who explained it would result in the vast majority of large practices achieving a positive return but would do little to help the smaller physician practices.

"Given the fact that small practices had much lower rates of EHR adoption at the outset of the incentive program, if I were a policymaker, this points to a real concern about the effectiveness of the incentive program. It really highlights the drawback of a one-size-fits-all approach."

Explore further: Pediatrician adoption of EHR systems lagging behind

More information: Study: content.healthaffairs.org/cont … nt/32/3/562.abstract

Related Stories

Pediatrician adoption of EHR systems lagging behind

November 19, 2012
(HealthDay)—Pediatricians' adoption of fully functional electronic health record (EHR) systems is lagging and fraught with financial and productivity concerns, according to a study published online Nov. 19 in Pediatrics.

Electronic health records with technical assistance can improve patient care in New York City

January 7, 2013
The relationship between a physician practice's adoption of electronic health records (EHR) and quality improvements in patient care remains unclear. However, a new study published in the January issue of Health Affairs by ...

California physicians unprepared for electronic health record regulations: report

June 15, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Electronic health records (EHRs) are used widely by California physicians, but many of their systems are not designed to meet new federal standards aimed at improving the quality of health care, according ...

Family docs are early adopters of electronic health records

January 16, 2013
(HealthDay)—Family practice physicians are adopting electronic health record (EHR) systems at a fast pace, with 68 percent using an EHR system by 2011, and 80 percent expected to be users by 2013, according to research ...

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.