EMR Costs Outweigh Benefits, Physicians Say

Posted on August 21, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Nobody likes paying for something that’s expensive but not that valuable. But that’s the position many physicians feel they’re in when they buy an EMR, FierceHealthIT reports.

A new study by athenahealth concludes that while physicians do feel EMRs deliver benefits, the expense they have to take on outweigh the benefits EMRs deliver. The EMR vendor surveyed 1,200 physicians, 70 percent specialists and 30 percent primary care doctors to learn more about their attitudes toward EMRs, FHIT said.

The study wasn’t all bad news for EMR use. Thirty-eight percent of doctors had a “somewhat favorable” opinion, and 31 percent had a “very favorable” opinion of EMRs. That being said, 51 percent of responding physicians said that the financial benefits of EMRs don’t outweigh the cost, athenahealth found.

The study found that physicians were more familiar with EMRs than they were when athenahealth did its 2012 Physician Sentiment Index. But doctors’ willingness to buy an EMR  has actually fallen, probably because those who haven’t done it at this late date are particularly resistant. Meanwhile, one thing that hasn’t changed since last year is that doctors don’t think EMRs are made with their practice needs in mind.

Sadly, these results aren’t much of a surprise. While some doctors are adapting to their EMR installation, they’re still struggling with clunky interfaces and questionable vendor support.  Some practices have spent years waiting for their pre-EMR productivity to come back, and have found that it just isn’t happening.

But here and there there are some signs that vendors are “getting it.” For example, I really liked a story John wrote about how EMR vendor Elation requires programmers to shadow a physician as part of the hiring process. To my mind, this kind of thinking is far more likely to bear fruit than the existing system, which puts programmers at a considerable remove from their product’s end users.

The truth is, we’re never going to reach the point where all physicians are EMR boosters, but it’d be nice if we at least reached a point where most saw EMRs as being worth the (big) pricetag.