Historically, technological advancements in a field, drives down the costs of the service, or software, or product that is produced by this field. The absence of this is why so many people in the medical profession and the healthcare industry as a whole are scratching their heads and asking the question, “why are EHR systems still so expensive?”
After all, it can be argued that the current version of EHR systems are the biggest advancement in health IT in the last two decades. They have revolutionized care giving and made the lives of patients, care providers, office staff, billing staff and more much easier. There is a proliferation of systems as well, due to multiple vendors coming into the field. Which brings us back to the question, why are EHR systems still so expensive?
Why Health IT Costs Aren’t Diminishing (When Other Tech Costs Are)
There are a variety of reasons why health IT costs are remaining static, or increasing, despite decreasing costs in other areas of the tech industry. One reason is the layout of the market itself: EHR costs currently range from zero dollars upfront to potentially tens of thousands of dollars and everything in between. For many of the high profile companies, who are the only vendors who can meet the demands of large-scale hospitals and healthcare technology innovators, there are few incentives to lower costs within their target market bracket, since there is a demand for it and since they are one of the few suppliers.
Another reason for static, or increasing costs, is the need for updates and maintenance in the unique healthcare environment. Unlike many fields, healthcare is constantly in flux with tight federal regulatory changes and requirements, with EHR vendors continually updating their systems to stay abreast of changes in Meaningful Use requirements or other updates.
What Impacts Cost?
As stated above, many of the reasons for healthcare IT’s particular market landscape are unique or specific to this industry, differentiating electronic health records systems and Health IT Platform (HITP) from other tech services.
As with all health systems, EHRs are subject to significant liability. Features that can facilitate billing activities (i.e. historical auto-population features) also carry liability. Other electronic health records features, such as e-prescribing, drug-interaction notifications, filing insurance claims and more, inherently relate to risk. While HIPAA specifications identify the medical provider as liable for the integrity of records and responsible in case of any violation of it, EHR developers nonetheless consider it their own responsibility and operate under inherent risk and the need to update, maintain and optimize their products and systems.
From design to development of an electronic health records system, time to market (TTM) plays an important role in system costs. The higher the TTM, the greater the cost. However, many times the higher-quality the system, the longer it takes to design and develop. In this way, a higher value of an electronic health records system can be reflected by a higher cost.
Federal reimbursements for EHR systems included those for Medicare and Medicaid as specified by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Other incentives like 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) also provided incentives for qualifying EHR use in medical practices. These incentives have driven an increase in competition amongst EHR systems to adhere to an expensive compliance process.
For a medical practice to receive federal reimbursements, they must use an EHR that is certified for Meaningful Use. These and other certification processes can be costly, and contribute to the overall costs of an EHR system.
There are ways to reduce the costs of EHR. One of the first ones being, go with the less expensive alternatives in the market. Another one being to download an Open Source EHR system.
But with either one of those, you run into the risk of having a system that doesn’t deliver when needed, or doesn’t have what you need, or doesn’t work to your needs, or just isn’t safe. That’s just off the top of my head.
We at blueEHR have a solution that could work for you. Tailor made EHR systems. Now, it might not be the cheapest option on the market, but upfront, it will be cheaper than the “brand” name, off-the-shelf EHR product you might be thinking about buying and it will be cheaper in the long term than the less expensive(upfront) alternatives. It will also save you more money and increase your revenue in the long term, by allowing your caregivers to provide care, in the workflow that they desire, instead of having to be forced to follow one that is not to their liking.
We are proud to offer healthcare solutions to fit your unique medical practices affordably. Thanks to invaluable industry knowledge and experience, we are committed to offering HITaaS solutions that are affordable and effective.
Contact us to speak with one of our EHR experts and learn how we can serve your practice today.