Competitive and Successful with EMR

Physician's Money Digest, March 2007, Volume 14, Issue 3

Adapting to electronic medical records (EMRs) can be a difficult transition, and each practice has to find its own way.

Although integrating an EMR system into a practice takes time, dedication, and investment, the rewards are worth it. There are many ways you can benefit from using an EMR system, including increased cash flow, greater competitiveness, remote working access, increased workflow, better decisions support, easier reporting, and being better informed about patients.

This month, we'll take a brief look at the compelling financial reasons for integrating EMR. Although a return on investment is not guaranteed, the Medical Records Institute finds that about 30% to 40% of offices achieve increased revenue by using EMRs.

The accounts organization that inevitably occurs when an EMR is put into practice can help physicians catch and claim "lost charges" that often slip through paper-based systems. Improved reimbursement may also result from automated coding. Therefore, without even generating a new income stream, EMR can increase a practice's revenue.

An EMR can also be used as a marketing tool to attract new patients. Techsavvy patients may make their choice of physician based on the availability of email interaction with the physician and the convenience of having an electronic record right at their doctor's fingertips. Furthermore, an EMR system may help patient traffic by increasing the referrals from other offices. For example, some physicians' offices will send their patients to the clinic that is able to send out reports within an hour of the visit—a feat made possible through EMRs.

Additionally, EMRs can produce substantial savings. The biggest single item is, of course, transcription. Savings of up to $25,000, per physician, per year, have been reported from clinics that eliminated transcription. The best financial return comes from the implementation of speech recognition software, although it is difficult to learn and takes persistence to make it successful.

Office space is increased through EMR use, as the shelving assigned to paper charts can be diminished or eliminated. Similarly, time spent on filing and searching for paper charts can be put to better, more productive applications.

The degree of return on investment for an EMR may vary widely depending on workflow and other practicespecific functions. A small minority of practices never recoup the expenses of implementing EMRs. The difference between success and failure depends on knowing why and how to change to an EMR, selecting the right system for the practice, knowing how to change workflow, and getting the "buy-in" of partners and employees.