Investing in an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) is a decision that most practices are putting off. Cost is one of the main reasons physicians do not adopt an EMR. EMR systems vary quite a bit in terms of cost, ranging from free systems all the way up to $100,000 enterprise-class systems.

Cost is an important factor. There is no reason to purchase a $100,000 system when a considerably more affordable system has all the features and customization that you need. Return on Investment (ROI) is a much more important consideration. ROI is a measure of the financial benefit you receive from an investment.

Most business owners know the importance of reinvesting in their business. The same is true for a medical practice. Does your practice have an X-ray or MRI machine? If so, think about how much additional revenue it provides. Instead of referring these procedures, you can perform them in-house and charge for them. Most equipment has an up-front cost. X-ray machines are an investment, because they will make money for you. Good investments will pay for themselves by bringing additional revenue to your practice.

EMRs are no different. While they do usually have some up-front cost, a good EMR will pay for itself in relatively short order by making your office more efficient, eliminating the cost of managing paper, and allowing you to bill higher codes through better documentation. Practices can spend several thousand dollars a year managing paper, including the cost of paper, toner, and the time staff spends scanning, faxing, or filing charts.

Many practices also bill at lower levels because their documentation is incomplete. The average difference between codes is about $30, and a good EMR should allow you to bill at least one level higher. $30 may not sound like much, but multiplied by the number of patients you see in a year, and that turns into about $225,000 of additional revenue in the first year, depending on how many patients you see on a daily basis.

Do not focus on cost when considering an EMR. ROI is a much more important consideration. Ask your EMR vendor to show you how their system will increase your revenue. Be sure to calculate how long it will take before the system pays for itself. Your EMR should pay for itself within one year.

Ryan Ricks
Security Officer