How to Evaluate the Cost of EHR Systems

More and more practices are implementing electronic health record (EHR) systems in order to meet meaningful use requirements and receive government financial incentives. At the same time, some offices are looking to switch to a new system because they’re dissatisfied with their current technology.

In either case, evaluating the cost of an EHR system is often a confusing endeavor. It’s hard to compare your options in an apples-to-apples way because of the different software platforms, pricing structures, and customization required for integrating a system into your practice. And when compared to other business-related information technology systems, EHR technology hasn’t been around that long, which limits the availability of standardization between systems.

There are a number of factors worth considering as you prepare to make the switch to EHR. As you evaluate your options, here are a few key things to keep in mind:

Choose the Correct Software Platform

One of the biggest factors to consider when it comes to cost is the type of software platform—more specifically, whether you have a client-server or web-based EHR system. Client-server systems require on-site servers and hardware, as well as ongoing costs for support and management. And Web- or SaaS-based (software as a service) systems typically require a monthly subscription fee for data storage and maintenance. Initial costs for implementation will vary depending on which type of system you choose. However, the main costs for practices to consider include: hardware, software, implementation assistance, training, and ongoing fees.

Consider Your Current Technology

Another piece of the puzzle concerns your practice’s current technology. A new EHR system must be integrated with your —the ones you already have in place for practice management, laboratory management, accounting, and other aspects of the practice. If those legacy systems are pretty common or provided by a popular vendor, there’s a higher likelihood that the EHR vendor has already developed integration processes to easily tie in the new system with your current ones. But if you use a less common system, then a more customized—and thus more expensive—integration process may be required.

Keep Long-Term Costs in Mind

It’s important to remember that the cost of an EHR system goes beyond the initial installation fee or even the operating costs of the first year. So be sure to take into account the long-term costs—those fees you’ll incur on a yearly or ongoing basis, such as upgrades, maintenance, IT support, and licensing fees.

Know Where Your Time Is Best Spent

We all know that time is money. While you and your staff are getting up to speed on the new system, you’ll likely experience short-term inefficiencies in productivity that will decrease the number of patients you can see per day or require your staff to work longer hours. Combine the inevitable learning curve delays with the amount of time needed for additional data entry and training, and you may have to consider the cost implications as far as overtime pay.

Choosing an EHR system is a big decision—especially since it often comes with a hefty price tag. In order to feel confident in your evaluation process, take the time to research your options and gather all of the necessary information. Consider the type of system, the main costs associated with implementation, the long-term or ongoing costs, and the amount of extra time needed for data entry, training, and conquering that initial learning curve. By assessing all of these factors, you’ll have a clearer picture of the best EHR system for your practice.

 

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