EMRs Worth 11¢ to Physicians

There are few buzz words in today's healthcare environment as controversial as the term electronic medical records (EMRs). Four years ago, the Bush administration set a goal to make EMRs the gold standard for American medical practices, with physicians sharing medical histories

“Not all problems have a technological answer, but when they do, that is the more lasting solution.”—Andrew Grove

There are few buzz words in today’s healthcare environment as controversial as the term electronic medical records (EMRs). Four years ago, the Bush administration set a goal to make EMRs the gold standard for American medical practices, with physicians sharing medical histories, lab results, and diagnoses through interconnected and hopefully nationwide network systems.

In the four years since that goal was announced, progress toward widespread use of EMRs has been sluggish at best. According to a 2007 survey by the government’s Office of Health Information Technology, only 14% of doctors have a minimally functional EMR system in place.

Although several factors play a role in this lack of progress, one of the primary reasons is the high cost of installing an EMR system. According to the Office of Health Information Technology, the average price tag on an EMR system is $20,000, a figure that most doctors can’t afford. Smaller practices find it especially hard to foot the bill for an EMR system, but even among larger practices, defined in a government survey as those with 11 doctors or more, just over 25% have a comprehensive EMR system in place.

To make matters worse, an American Medical Association study showed that while doctors are expected to pay for the technology, they see very little of the financial benefits of an EMR system. For every $1 saved through EMRs, doctors see only 11¢, according to the AMA. At that rate, the average practice would need five to six years to recoup the cost of an EMR system. The AMA has long supported refundable tax credits and other financial incentives to help doctors with the cost of buying and installing EMR technology.

55%Percentage of Americans who say the use of EMRs can significantly reduce healthcare costs.(Harris Poll, 2007)

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