EHR adoption and implementation costs can be surprisingly high.
Costing as much as tens of thousands of dollars, EHR can easily seem out-of-reach. With every EHR vendor offering a different pricing plan, cost structures can be confusing. Learning more about how these cost structures typically work may help you reduce your own EHR costs so that it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive.
Typical EHR cost structure
Implementation and maintenance costs may vary. Over time, some EHR products are more expensive than others—however, some costs may be hidden. Upfront costs may be more obvious, but be sure to ask the vendor questions about maintenance, upgrade, and support costs to avoid significant surprises.
The Federal EHR website, HealthIT.gov, reports five common areas of EHR costs, including:¹
- Computer and peripheral hardware: Your office will likely need to purchase desktop computers or laptops for accessing the software. Printers, networking hardware, scanners, servers, and others technologies may factor into these costs.
- Software costs: Direct expenses related to deploying purchased software or connecting to subscription-based EHR are included in your software costs. You should also ask about upgrade costs.
- Implementation support: Ask about the costs associated with hiring IT contractors, paying for consultants, and ongoing support during the implementation process.
- Training and education: If using your new EHR properly requires you or your office’s employees to attend seminars, purchase training courses, or hire a training consultant, then you should add these costs to the total EHR bill.
- Subscriptions, fees, and maintenance: Keeping your EHR maintained may cost you more in the long run if subscriptions, support, and maintenance expenses are considered. Network connections, education costs, and future hiring costs should also be tallied together.
Depending on whether your software is purchased and deployed on-site or through a cloud-based subscription service, you may be expected to pay more upfront or over time. SaaS (Software as a Service) products are cloud-based, or located on off-site servers and leased by the physician rather than purchased outright.
Potential savings from using EHR
Over time, EHR software may increase your office’s efficiency and improve your coding and collections enough to compensate for the high software and maintenance costs, according to one Health Affairs study.²
Participating practices, on average, recouped their full initial investment in EHR expenses and began covering EHR maintanence expenses within two and a half years by becoming more efficient. By using EHR, these offices benefited from reductions in filing time, eliminating the need for transcription of doctor’s notes, increased coding accuracy, and other improvements.
Having more accurate documentation allows offices to justify and establish better coding practices. This may boost revenue by allowing the office to bill for higher amounts because the visit is fully and appropriately documented.
While the majority of the practices studied were able to achieve these savings sooner, some practices took longer to recoup their costs. Your own savings may vary depending on the needs of your office, the software you choose, your vendor’s support, and other factors. If you are already using an EHR and are merely switching vendors, then you may lose some of these savings as part of the cost of new software. The greatest savings are often achieved by offices that switch from paper-only to EHR use.
Because these expenses vary widely, the HealthIT provides an estimate ranging from $15,000 to $70,000 for purchasing and installing EHR software used by one healthcare provider. Your actual costs may be lower or higher. Shopping around and understanding your office’s needs can help you find the right product for you without breaking your budget.
¹HealthIT.gov. “How much is this going to cost me?” https://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/faqs/how-much-going-cost-me. Published November 2014. Accessed April 2016.
²Miller, Robert H., et al. “The Value of Electronic Health Records in Solo or Small Group Practices.” http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/24/5/1127.full#R11. Published September 2005. Accessed April 2016.