Aug 23 , 2016

Trends Impacting EHR Costs

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Whether it be practice administrators, health records system vendors, or providers themselves, anyone in the medical community who is affected by Electronic Health Record(EHR) systems should keep an eye on industry trends that are affecting, or will soon be affecting, costs. The reason is self explanatory. Predicting the impact of EHR Costs is extremely important, because not only can it help save on financial investments down the line, but it also helps to set expectations and help prepare for the future of EHRs.

EHR Cost

EHR systems can be, and often are, very costly. This is a wry statement, because it is true for a variety of reasons. The expenses of implementing an EHR system are driven by costs associated with system design, training and everything in between. Even so, EHRs have seen a dynamic history of price trends, from the very expensive to almost free. Understanding the market requires a quick look at some of the most substantial trends in EHR design and adoption.

Trends

Many variable factors influence EHR costs. Watching the environment of the market in the health records industry can help to clarify some of the EHR pricing differences. There are three significant trends to follow and they are a) open source systems, b) API integration and c) customization in EHR systems.

 

  • Open Source and Do-it-Yourself Implementation (Downward Trend)

Despite their initial popularity, particularly with respect to their low, or no, cost pricing, open source EHR systems are on a steep downward trend. This is largely in part due to the usage of one requiring a higher degree of technical capacity and understanding early on and also because some may lack the functionality that is delivered by paid and packaged systems. 

For a practice that is trying to save on costs, these systems seem extremely attractive, due to the allure of having little or even no upfront fees. The reason that their popularity is descending, is that there is going to be a financial investment that has to be made and it will be seen at a later stage, like during implementation, training, upgrades and maintenance. 

As for the previously mentioned functionality issue, this could be something as small as user interface aesthetics, which isn’t given much thought and it would mean that there is a “lack (of) icons and buttons, attractive fonts, and colorful, user-friendly layouts”.[1] “The Pros and Cons of Open Source EMRs | Clinical Drug Information” Accessed 26 Aug. 2019. It could also be something more serious, such as not offering “an extensive depth of clinical decision support options”[2]The Pros and Cons of Open Source EMRs | Clinical Drug Information” Accessed 26 Aug. 2019.. This includes e-prescribing functions, lab ordering capabilities and more.  

 

  • API – Application Program Interface (Downward Trend)

Integrating software systems through API-driven models has also seen a deceleration. This is due to the complexity and difficulty of bridging numerous systems, as well as there being concern over health data not being without a loss of integrity, while also remaining secure. There is also the issue of most EHRs not having the ability to connect with or be interoperable with many other systems, leading to customers only having limited choices as it pertains to 3rd party vendors such as clearinghouses and revenue cycle management systems. Due to these limitations, a decrease in API-driven models is only a matter of time. As a corollary effect, it could also serve to drive up costs in EHRs, as a result of a decrease in interoperability and an increase in proprietary systems.

 

  • Customization (Upward Trend)

With more and more members of the healthcare community adopting EHR systems, it is a safe bet to say that there will be a shift towards the customization of these EHRs. Currently, there is already a change happening as practices are starting to realize that a one-size-fits-all, out-of-the-box approach to EHRs is just not working and is detrimental to their workflow, revenue cycles and usability. There are complaints ranging from the systems taking up too much of the physician’s time, to physicians making mistakes due to not being to pay enough attention to the patient. 

Customization isn’t perfect however. There are increased costs at the start of implementing them, due to the time and skill needed in creating these systems that are tailored by specialty or for an individual practice. However, unlike the other options, there are usually not a lot of future expenses in comparison. There is also going to be some savings, as there won’t be much time spent on educating the health providers and staff on how to use the system. This also makes onboarding of future employees easy. 

Future Cost Considerations

Another important trend to watch in the coming years is that of Meaningful Use criteria and mandates for EHRs, particularly with regards to existing federal incentive programs. Other important factors that affect the future of EHR cost include HIPAA regulations and insurance changes on both a private and a federal level.

The costs of these EHR systems would also have varying pricing models when targeted towards different types of providers, their speciality and the size of the practice.

If you are interested in learning more about custom made EHR systems, we would be happy to help. At blueEHR, we focus on providing you with the best tools possible to maintain(or build) a robust and reliable custom made electronic health records system; all while weathering the changes in this fast-paced and ever-changing landscape. Contact us today and see if we’re the right fit.

 

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