Adopting electronic health records appears to be a money-losing proposition for most physicians, especially specialists and those in smaller physician groups.
The average physician would lose $43,743 over five years after adopting EHRs and only 27% of physicians would profit through the transition away from paper records without federal financial aid. And even when the $44,000 in meaningful use incentives are added to the pot, only 41% of physicians would be in the black, according to the study published this month in Health Affairs.
The study examined data gleaned from 49 community practices of varying sizes and specialties that were part of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, an EHR pilot project. Meaningful use incentives were not in place for the period examined by the study. However, the study authors added the value of the meaningful use incentives on top of their initial projections.
"We knew the literature said that in general practices tend to be able to recoup the cost of the EHR investment in a relatively short period of time and this was the first opportunity to study a wide and more diverse group," study coauthor Julia Adler-Milstein of the University of Michigan School of Information and School of Public Health said in an phone interview.
"What we had heard from practices was how hard it is to make the transitions from paper to electronic health records. These are your typical practices. A lot of them are very small and they don't have the organizational capabilities to support a major organizational change. We continued to be reminded as we worked with these practices and collected this financial data how they are trying to run a small business and this is a very challenging experience to go through."