Most conversations about electronic health records (EHRs) center around their efficiency and how they impact the delivery of patient care. Overall, opinions about the technology tend to be lukewarm at best, with many providers believing that having to use an EHR detracts from their ability to engage with patients and adds an unnecessary burden to the management of patient care.
That being said, EHRs are here to stay, and many providers are beginning to see that there are some significant benefits to the technology. One area where EHRs can have a positive impact is revenue. Consider this: In 2013, about 75 percent of providers expected that making a switch to an EHR would lead to a drop in revenue, due to problems in recordkeeping and billing. However, in a follow-up study a few years later, about 97 percent of providers who adopted EHRs reported an increase in revenue.
One of the major reasons for the increase in revenue is the EHR’s ability to capture charges. With the appropriate equipment at the patient’s bedside, providers can accurately document charges in the moment, rather than expect that they will be correctly transcribed and billed from paper records. Many providers note the potential for thousands of dollars in legitimate charges to be lost in the paper documentation process, and the positive effect that electronic documentation has had on income.
Capturing charges isn’t the only way that EHRs can increase revenue, though. By tapping into the potential of the system, and using the features to their greatest advantage, you can actually bring in additional income, and even potentially create new revenue streams.
While not a means for bringing in more money per se, reducing expenses can improve the overall bottom line of the practice. EHRs offer a number of means for expense reduction.
Reduced liability costs. A Harvard Medical School study found that malpractice claims have reduced considerably since the widespread adoption of electronic records. Claims are now about one-sixth of the previous rate, and declining. Because of this sharp decrease, many malpractice insurers are offering significant discounts on coverage to those providers who adopt EHRs. Not to mention, the reduced likelihood of a malpractice claim itself can save your practice a great deal of money.
Reduced office expenses. EHRs allow your office to make strides toward becoming paperless, which can save your practice thousands of dollars per year in reduced supply expenses, transcription costs, storage costs, and the time required to manage paper records.
While less money leaving your practice is a good start, your EHR can also bring more money in. For example:
Incentive Payments. Under CMS rules, in order to receive incentive payments, you must be able to prove “meaningful use” of your EHR. By meeting these objectives, you can receive up to a 5 percent increase in your reimbursements, which can be a significant source of income.
Meaningful use objectives vary by phase, but include everything from secure messaging and health information exchange to computerized order entry. In addition, with the new emphasis on quality of care and value-based purchasing, using your EHR to its full advantage helps ensure that you are meeting the goals for patient care and qualifying for the highest possible reimbursements.
See more patients. Electronic records, when used efficiently, can save you time during your patient visits and potentially allow you to see more patients in a typical work day. Consider using pre-filled templates for common ailments, or having your assistants complete the basic medical history and document the patient’s issues before you arrive in the room.
These small changes might only save a few minutes per patient, but over the course of the day, that time adds up and could allow you to see more patients. Not only are your patients more satisfied with the access to your practice, but at an average of $100 per visit, just two extra patients per day could equal $50,000 in a year.
Administrative charges. Many physician practices receive regular requests for patient charts from life insurance companies as part of the claims review process. The time and effort required to prepare these charts can be a burden on the practice, but an EHR can actually turn these requests into a source of revenue. Insurers could potentially request the charts via an electronic system for a nominal fee; the result is a more accurate and complete chart (directly from the EHR) delivered more quickly, and providers being reimbursed for their time.
Perhaps the most important effect that an EHR can have on your practice, though, is its contribution to patient engagement and satisfaction. Quite simply, the majority of patients expect their providers to use electronic records, and may find those who do not to be old-fashioned — potentially prompting questions about quality of care.
If you are not using your EHR efficiently, it’s possible that you could lose patients to a practice that is more in tune with technology, and lost patients equal lost revenue. To keep your practice thriving, consider the ways in which you can maximize your HER – increasing revenue and improving patient care along the way.