Monday, August 20, 2007

Study: When it Comes to Electronic Medical Records, Osteopathic Physicians Say Cost is Biggest Hurdle

A new research study by the American Osteopathic Association and the Medical Group Management Association finds the cost of an electronic medical records (EMR) software keeps doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) from transitioning to electronic medical records. In some cases, the costs kept physicians from fully utilizing EMRs they had already installed.

The study shows larger medical groups (at least 51 full-time doctors) tend to have more funds available for information technology investment, and adopt electronic health or medical records systems at a rate of 55.1 percent. The rate was much lower (25 percent) in solo physician practices.

What's keeping physicians from adopting EMR or EHR systems? According to this study, a “lack of capital resources to invest in an EHR”. Researchers found that the median EHR/EMR purchase and implementation cost was $20,000 per physician, with an additional $250 per month per physician for maintenance.

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Of those that had moved to an electronic medical records system, nine out of ten respondents said they would not go back to paper medical records. Among AOA members, “improved access to medical record information” ranked highest as a potential benefit to their medical practices. Other high-ranking benefits with more direct impact on practice financials were “improved accuracy for coding evaluation and management procedures” and “improved charge capture.”

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This research also seems to support the theory that although these software systems can be expensive, they lower practice costs in the long run. Of those with systems, 22.3 percent said their practice costs had decreased. To be fair, an almost identical percentage of DOs claimed their practice costs had increased. The balance wasn't sure.

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MGMA conducted the study of AOA members in spring 2006, although the results were released in August 2007.

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