EHR software is a significant investment for many clinics and can have many hidden costs beyond the upfront price tag.
Asking plenty of questions and understanding where hidden costs typically occur can help you protect yourself and may reduce your overall electronic health record system costs. Implementing new software may be the primary expense, but some companies add other costs for features, assistance, and upgrades. You will need to evaluate each system you are reviewing and decide if these expenses are worthwhile for your clinic.¹
Before you buy or subscribe to new EHR software, be sure to understand how these hidden costs can add up and do obtain accurate quotes from prospective vendors before you sign any contracts.
You may pay more for special features such as electronic prescribing and quality reporting that your clinic may not need or use. Many vendors have one-size-fits-all software designed for many different types of specialties and sell use of their software along with many different optional features. As a chiropractic practice, you may not ever use electronic prescribing, so you should not be paying for this feature. Depending on the needs of your clinic, you may also avoid add-ons such as practice management features, revenue tracking, and customizations.¹
Whether or not you want the optional features, find out how much these extras will cost you. Once you have a complete quote, making the decision to include or exclude them is easier.
Upgrades and updates
Find out how often your vendor offers new features, software improvements, and other changes. Some upgrades and updates are essential and some are not. Updates and upgrades to cloud-based software are typically handled by the vendor. If you install the software on your own servers, you are probably responsible for your own upgrades and updates, unless you pay your vendor to do this for you.¹
Before you sign a contract, ask your vendor how updates and upgrades to the software are installed and find out if you are responsible for arranging your own. Determine if these costs are included in your subscription or in the purchase price of your EHR.
Miscellaneous IT services
Other IT services such as responding to user questions, providing training, and maintaining servers may appear as separate charges. You may need ongoing IT support, or you may have your own on-site staff to manage these issues.
The level of support provided with your software may vary tremendously based on your own needs, what your vendor offers and what you are willing to pay for separately. For some vendors, these additional support functions represent a significant portion of their revenue. They may be very motivated to sell you additional support and dedicated services.¹
Asking beforehand about required and included support will help you understand how to manage your IT costs and obtain the services you and your staff actually need.
Productivity and training issues
If you or your staff have a difficult time learning to use the new system, that will likely add to your system’s hidden costs. EHR software can be challenging for many providers and office assistants to learn. It may take substantial time for your clinic to really be capable of using all the features your software provides. Be aware of the possibility that this lag time will create another hidden cost of EHR. ²
Budgeting time to learn and train can help you reduce productivity loss and retraining expenses. Be sure to consider how the new software changes your clinic’s workflows, too. Any changes that are hard to implement or challenging to learn should be anticipated wherever possible.²
Reduce your EHR costs
Careful planning and asking smart questions may reduce your overall EHR costs, so do create a list of dream EHR system features and find out how much your vendor charges for extras.
You may be able to avoid costly features and services your clinic can do without.
- Dryad, L. “18 hidden costs in EHR purchase and implementation.” Becker’s Health IT & CIO Review. http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/healthcare-information-technology/18-hidden-costs-in-ehr-purchase-and-implementation.html. Published: December 2016. Accessed: January 2017.
- Fleming,, N.; Culler, S; et al. “The Financial And Non-financial Costs of Implementing Electronic Health Records In Primary Care Practices.” Health Affairs. http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/3/481.full. Published: March 2011. Accessed: January 2017.