Cost is the major barrier that prevents most practices from adopting an electronic medical record (EMR). Most people are uncomfortable purchasing something that costs more money than they have, which is reasonable. However, EMRs are investments that will give you a positive return over time. Today, we’ll look at five ways EMRs can bring you positive returns on your investment.

First, EMRs can reduce operating expenses. They streamline your practice, and help you operate more quickly and efficiently. You can even increase the number of patients you see with less staff. We’re not suggesting you fire anyone, just let natural attrition occur. With an EMR, your practice can easily handle the workload with less staff. You can save up to $45,000 per year with one less employee. That alone will cover the cost of most systems.

Second, EMRs can reduce costs associated with paper. Most practices spend a lot of money managing paper. Printer paper, ink cartridges, and toner all cost money. How many of these items do you buy each quarter? The real cost of paper is in labor. How much time does your staff spend dealing with paper each day? Include time spent copying, stapling, printing, faxing, filing charts, looking for missing charts or other documents, and entering paper-based data into the computer. You could spend around $6000 per year just managing paper. EMRs can eliminate this cost.

Third, EMRs can help you code at higher levels. Physicians usually do a lot of undocumented work. As far as CMS is concerned, if you didn’t document it, you didn’t do it. Documenting all your work can help you quality for higher coding. A one-level increase is worth about $30. Multiply $30 by the number of encounters you have in a year, and you will see how EMRs can increase your revenue.

Fourth, EMRs can help you eliminate billing errors and reduce the number of rejected claims. Normal human error can cost you money – a simply leaving off a zero on a bill could cost you a hundred or thousand dollars. Aside from that, it takes time for employees to find and fix mistakes. You could spend over $1000 per year just fixing billing mistakes. EMRs can save you that money through automated data entry.

Fifth, the 2008 Economic Stimulus Act provides huge incentives for business to make large capital purchases. Section 179 of the act allows you to write off the full purchase-price for items up to $250,000. It also offers 50% depreciation for items exceeding $250k. Therefore, a $35,000 system would only cost you $22,750 after your deduction, assuming a 35% tax rate. The act expires at the end of this year though, so act fast.

As we’ve seen, EMRs can increase your revenue over time. Don’t think about them in terms of what they cost you now; think about how much money they will generate for you over time.

Ryan Ricks
Security Officer