The high cost of EMR systems is the main reason many providers have not implemented them, according to a study by the New England Journal of Medicine. The study polled about 3,000 physicians since September 2007. 66% of physicians that do not currently have an EMR stated that cost was a barrier.
Physicians should be cautious. However, they need to look at more than just the initial sticker price of any system they consider. There are often other hidden costs besides just the software license.
Practices may need to buy or upgrade their current computers and hardware. In addition to computers, a practice might need printers, scanners, and routers or other networking gear. Some EMR systems require a server. Servers are expensive to purchase and maintain. Base models start around $1500.
Practices may also need an internet connection. Some EMR systems require a high-speed connection to see patients. High speed internet connections start around $35 or $40 for DSL and about $50 for cable. T1 lines and other more robust connections will be even more expensive.
In addition to hardware and internet connections, practices should look out for maintenance and support contracts. Many EMR vendors require these, and they can cost up to 20% of the purchase price each year.
If practices want to save money, they should consider an EMR vendor that can work with their current hardware, that does not need a full-time internet connection, and that does not require maintenance and support contracts.