Free EMR – A Boon for Small Practices?

Posted on September 12, 2011 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

I was talking to a physician friend during the week, and getting his take on EMR implementation. He would dearly like to implement an EMR in his practice. However, the major roadblocks he’s experiencing are in terms of costs. The quotes he has received for EMR implementation runs close to 80K. If he bills patients 500K a year, if he does not implement an EMR solution at all, the differential on the Medicare rebates in the first year would be 1 percent of $500,000, which is $5000, which is a number he says he can live with. If he implements an EMR, his two physician practi ce stands to make $88,000 from Medicare (they don’t see many Medicaid patients). In other words, if he spends 80K for his practice, or shells out 40K personally, he stands to gain $44,000. If on the other hand, he maintains status quo, he loses just $5000. Given the pain of choosing an EMR and EMR implementation, he’s probably better off doing nothing, he believes. And let’s not forget, it’ll be live people working with an EMR system, and productivity will actually take a hit before rising slowly back to pre-EMR levels, as this Feb post by Robert Rowley on Practice Fusion’s blog shows.

In other words, there are monetary incentives but sometimes just don’t make real-world sense.

This same math would look a lot different in a multi-physician practice. The same EMR implementation cost would be spread over a larger base, and more of the incentive money would actually reach the physician.

Which brings us to Practice Fusion. On this blog and elsewhere, Practice Fusion has got a lot of press (Full Disclosure: Practice Fusion is an advertiser on this site), not all of it positive.  Not being a medical practitioner, and never having used any EMR personally, my idea of how Practice Fusion stacks up functionally against other EMRs is pretty much second-hand info gleaned from reviews (John had a recent post on Black Book rankings. It’s interesting to me that Practice Fusion shows up in only the 1-Physician Practice rankings among the top 20.) There are those that caution the model of free. There’s also some debate whether a one-size-fits-all approach will benefit every kind of practice. But just based on its economic model, Practice Fusion is a system I would at least recommend my friend look into.