Ways to Pump Up Your Bottom Line (Despite Healthcare Reform)

Leigh Page


October 25, 2012

In This Article

6. Install a Low-Cost Electronic Medical Record System

It can cost a practice $20,000 to $90,000 to buy electronic medical record (EMR) software, plus hardware, installation costs, and the disruption of installation. But Jess Orrick equates practices that hold on to paper charts with the horse and buggy of a century ago. "One of these days, you've got to get rid of that horse and buggy, because we have cars now," he says. "EMRs will become the preferred method."

Orrick says that EMRs and their accompanying software will be needed to report on quality and help deal with new payment arrangements championed by the ACA, such as bundling fees, Accountable Care Organizations, and patient-centered medical homes. What's more, under the meaningful use standards created by the stimulus bill, practices that do not implement EMR will start having to pay penalties in 2015. These penalties will rise from 1% of Medicare reimbursements in 2015 to 4% in 2018.

Practices that cannot pay the hefty price tag of commercial EMR systems can consider '"free" EMRs, although that term may be an exaggeration. The software may be free, but you still need to supply the hardware and set up the system. David Kresnicka, MD, a solo family physician in Marion, Iowa, recently installed a free EMR from Practice Fusion, a San Francisco-based company that claims more than 150,000 customers and makes money by generating marketing income from its list of clients.

Dr. Kresnicka says that he has not measured the return on investment, but he is quite happy with the new system. Although it takes longer to input data than with the old paper records, he says the EMR provides a rich source of clinical data. "If I need to identify my diabetes patients, maybe to tell them about a product alert, it's really easy." He can also use the system to reach out to patients to manage their care.