Nearly half of all physicians in America still rely on paper records for most patient care, according to Kaiser Health News, and time is running out to take advantage of the government incentive payments. Even with the payments and the administration touting the increased efficiency and portability of EHRs, a new study shows that the savings may take years.
The study, reported on by MedPage Today found that using electronic health records (EHRs) saved a little more than 3% in ambulatory health costs 18 months after adoption, but didn't reduce overall inpatient costs.
Researchers examined monthly costs in commercial payers from 15 months before implementation to 18 months after implementation, with a total of 48,000 patients in the EHR group and 130,000 in the control group. Practices involved were mostly small and a mixture of primary care and specialty.
Providers with the EHRs saved an average of $5.14 per member per month over the 18 months after implementation, representing a 3.40% savings. Ambulatory cost savings accounted for $4.69 of that amount. Health costs rose with both the EHR and non-EHR groups, but they did not rise as fast with the EHR group. Critics argue that the study only looked at 18 months after implementation, and that the savings builds with increased time.
Even with incentive payments and cost savings, no matter how small, buying an EHR system is challenging. The market exploded when the federal government started offering doctors those incentive payments. There’s closer to a thousand products out there to sort through in order to find the right system, and time is running out. The government said that those who don’t go digital will face payment penalties in the future.