According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS), electronic health record (EHR) systems can potentially imbue enough cost reduction to pay for the cost of the system in under two years’ time!   Despite growing enthusiasm and awareness of the benefits to patients, physicians have been slow to adopt EHRs often citing cost as an major obstacle to implementing an EHR.  Therefore, studies like this one which demonstrate that a positive return on investment is possible will be key to convincing skeptical physicians to part with their paper record systems.  

To find out more about the study design and findings, read on . . .

The study staged implementation of the Touchworks EHR (Allscripts) from November 2003 to March 2004 at five ambulatory offices, with a total of 28 providers, within the University of Rochester Medical Center.   Measurements of key financial indicators were made in the third calendar quarters of 2003 and 2005. These indicators included:

  • chart pulls,
  • new chart creation,
  • filing time,
  • support staff salary, and
  • transcription costs.

In addition, patient cycle time, evaluation and management codes billed, and days in accounts receivable were evaluated to assess impact on office efficiency and billing.

The study found that the total annual savings were $393,662 ($14,055 per provider). Total capital cost was $484,577. First-year operating expenses were $24,539. Total expenses for the first year were $509,539 ($18,182 per provider). Ongoing annual cost for subsequent years is $114,016 ($4,072 per provider). So, initial costs were recaptured within 16 months, with ongoing annual savings of $9,983 per provider.