Electronic health records and the impact on workflow and costs

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Healthcare practitioners and hospitals were initially slow to implement electronic health records (EHR) due to the perceived cost. The financial incentives from Medicare/Medicaid to adopt EHRs helped alleviate some of that concern, but the actual impact on workflow and profits, irrespective of those incentives, are still under investigation. In a research study, Steven D. Culler, adjunct associate professor of finance, along with David J. Ballard (Baylor Health Care System); Edmund R. Becker (Emory University); Dunlei Cheng (U of Texas); Briget da Graca (Baylor Health Care System); Neil S. Fleming (Baylor Health Care System); and Russell McCorkle (HealthTexas Provider Network) analyzed administrative, payroll, and billing data from 26 primary care practices in a Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas-based fee-for-service network that implemented EHRs from June 2006 through December 2008. In the 12-month period following implementation, staffing expenses increased 3 percent and practice costs increased 6 percent. The data revealed that “productivity, volume, and net income decreased initially, but recovered to/close to preimplementation levels after 12 months.” Given the recent rollout of EHRs across the country, the researchers noted the need for a longer-term investigation of the impact on productivity and costs.