Study finds EHR implementation leads to increased reimbursements

Electronic health record systems have long been debated in the industry. Many EHR vendors have bullet points indicating the ability to achieve better quality of care for patients and higher efficiency for physicians and nurses. A recent study tested another benefit of EHR systems: the promise of increased revenue.

The study, conducted by researchers at Drexel University and published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, found that ambulatory practices can increase their revenue streams with EHR implementation, but the providers also saw reduced productivity. To determine this, the researchers compared the patient volume and number of reimbursements at 30 ambulatory practices with information from before implementing an EHR system with after the adoption.

The study found that practices' reimbursements increased significantly with no evidence of upcoding or higher rates that would explain more revenue. Rather, the additional income was associated with a boost in ancillary office procedures such as drawing blood, immunizations, ultrasounds and wound care. The researchers also determined that patient volumes decreased by an average of 108 patients per quarter across the 30 providers that participated in the study.

The Drexel researchers believe that the association between EHR implementation and increased revenue is a reassuring fact and basis for inventing further into EHRs. Despite fewer patients being seen each month, the efficiency gained when physicians use the technology caused more reimbursements. The researchers suggested that if a hospital or clinic is not treating as many patients, then it may want to consider adding new functionalities such as an analytics application to its EHR system. This would allow physicians to focus on providing care for the correct patient.

Fierce EMR reported that this study suggests that physicians using clinical decision support tools in EHR software such as checklists and alerts are most likely the reason for the increase in revenues and ancillary services. The doctors would be notified that patients need certain tests done and therefore earn more reimbursements as patients have more procedures completed.

The other conclusion of the study, fewer patients per month, is backed up by the results of the Medscape EHR Report 2014, which found that 57 percent of surveyed physicians have a decreased ability to see more patients. However, the report also determined that 81 percent of doctors become more comfortable with their EHR systems over time, and that implies that this hurdle of treating fewer patients may be overcome as physicians learn how to optimize the use of the new technology.