Electronic records pay for themselves

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Contrary to the results of a study indicating that electronic health records do not help clinicians improve the quality of care ( Health Imaging News 7/12/07), another study found that facilities recoup their investment within two years. Published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, the study analyzed the return on investment of an electronic health records system used in five ambulatory offices representing 28 healthcare providers. The study compared the costs of a number of tasks — such as pulling patient charts, creating new charts, filing time, support staff salary, and data transcription — in the third quarter of 2005 (after the system was installed) to costs in the third quarter of 2003, when the tasks were still being done manually.

The University of Rochester Medical Center, N.Y., was one facility that implemented electronic records. The new system reduced costs by almost $394,000 per year, the study found, and nearly two-thirds of those savings came from a drastic reduction in the amount of time required to manually pull patient charts. The electronic medical records system costs $484,577 to install and operate in the first year, which means the medical center recouped its investment within 16 months.

David A. Krusch, MD, chief medical information officer at the University of Rochester, co-authored the study. By the time it is fully deployed in 2008, Krusch estimates the EHR will save the organization nearly $7 million in lower charting resource expenditures, reduced transcription costs and other intangible benefits. These include transmitting patient messages electronically, enabling simultaneous access to the chart from multiple departments, decreased claim submission and turnaround time when notes are required to confirm treatment codes, and streamlined customer service with instant front-desk access to secure patient records.