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    Doctors spending over $32,000 on health information technology

     

    “Patients are getting to where they now expect patient portals and the ability to look up their lab results and financial commitments online,” he adds.

     As practices prepare for the brave new world of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) and pay-for-performance, it’s only going to get more challenging.

    “We see the most sophisticated practices have the highest costs—but also the greatest opportunities for increased revenues, for example, through entering risk-bearing contracts,” Tennant says.

     

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    However, doctors are frustrated with the technology itself, which by and large is not user-friendly (according to whom?) “They are trying to work with their vendors to customize their products, even as the vendors are putting their effort into meeting government mandates,” he says.

    Christine Sinsky, MD, an internist in Dubuque, Iowa, and vice president of professional satisfaction for the American Medical Association, believes that the MGMA average seriously understates the actual costs. “We think that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and that actual costs, less easily assessed, are substantially higher,” she says.

    There is a 20% to 30% decrease in productivity from the adoption of EHRs that doesn’t go away, she says. There are also costs for physicians who opt to change their practice to part-time because of the demands of EHR, and for recruiting replacements for physicians who retire early because of it.

    “And there’s the one to two hours per night I consistently hear about from physicians across the country that they need to spend at home at night working on paperwork. So $32,500 doesn’t really cover the whole picture,” she says.

     

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    While EHRs are not going away, what can physicians and their groups ameliorate their impact on the practice? “For starters, don’t rely on the brochures and videos from the EHR vendors,” Tennant suggests. “Do your due diligence. Reach out to your colleagues who are using these systems.”

    He also recommends spending the time and money it takes to maximize the benefits of EHR technology.

    “Look at the opportunities to streamline your revenue cycle, such as through electronic funds transfer and insurance eligibility verification. If you’re spending the money, make sure that the system is meeting your practice’s needs,” he says.

     

    Larry Beresford
    Larry Beresford is a contributing author for Medical Economics.

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