“Care transformation (changing the way care is delivered and tracking the changes) confers the largest benefit, but takes the greatest investment in data, technology, leadership and process change, and it requires a full set of EHR functions.”
That was a key finding from a Gartner report on “The Benefits and Realities of the Healthcare Provider CIO’s Quest for EHR Value Delivery,” and it’s an excellent summary of the advantages and disadvantages of electronic health records—especially for independent medical practices (full article available to Gartner clients).
In a random sampling of 1,000 conversations our advisors had with medical providers, 44% said they’re currently using paper records, manual methods, or nothing at all to track patient encounters.
And yet, every one of those medical providers were calling us seeking advice on adopting EHRs—so their interest in moving away from paper records is clear.
This leads me to wonder how many doctors out there are weighing the pros and cons of transitioning to an EHR right this minute. If you’re one of them, considering the top advantages and disadvantages of EHRs might make that decision a little bit easier.
5 categories of EHR advantages for independent practices
The authors of the Gartner report mentioned above, Mike Jones and Dr. Thomas J. Handler, raise the salient point that the advantages of EHRs depend a great deal on who you’re asking. In other words, EHR advantages will be different for independent doctors, patients, hospitals, and large healthcare organizations.
To help cut through the confusion, Gartner came up with “categories of EHR benefits”—five of which apply directly to independent providers. For each category, Gartner provided a list of benefits; here are the categories and benefits that relate to small practices:
1. Reduced labor
- Faster review of patient data
- Less time spent calling or emailing appointment reminders
- Easier documentation using templates
2. Minimized resource consumption
- Fewer paper forms, reduced need to print physical copies
- Fewer duplicate or unnecessary lab orders
- Easier medication management
3. Improved care delivery
- Faster time to treatment
- Better medication management
- Earlier and better diagnosis
4. Easier data collection and analysis
- Faster report creation
- More thorough view of data trends
- Inventory control
5. More organizational efficiency
- Improved collaboration between partners and other providers
- Easier billing through coding applications
- Reduced risk of malpractice claims through better documentation
The time and effort users will have to put in before seeing these benefits differs, but the case remains that EHRs improve doctors’ lives in myriad ways.
2 categories of EHR disadvantages
Extensive as the list of EHR benefits are, we can’t get away with saying these systems are entirely free of drawbacks. We can say there are far fewer drawbacks, though.
In fact, if we stick to the theme of categories, there are really only two that EHR disadvantages can fall under. EHRs are a big investment that cost time and money.
1. It takes time
When you factor in the preliminary research like determining your budget and deciding which features you need—as well as the time you’ll spend doing product demos and negotiating with vendors—it starts to become really clear that this isn’t something you can just roll out in a few months.
Even after you select the winning product, you’re going to have to give your team time to learn the system before you start seeing it work smoothly.
2. It costs money
We’ve written before about the costs associated with adopting new EHR systems, and we know small medical practices are looking for affordable options, but if you want to enjoy all of the benefits EHRs have to offer, it’s not going to happen free of charge.
I wish I could tell you how much it costs to adopt and implement a new EHR system, but there are simply too many variables to consider. Instead of trying to find that number and building your budget around it, though, I recommend going the opposite direction. Figure out what you can afford to spend, and then find EHR products that fit within your budget.
When you’re ready to make the switch, start small
If you’re ready to begin researching EHR systems, you have a few options.
You can start by checking out some of our research and writings on EHR selection and implementation strategies:
- EHR vs. EMR—What’s the Difference?
- In It for the Long Haul: Switch to an EMR System You Love
- 3 EHR Selection Criteria for Your Independent Practice
- 5 Easy Steps to Pick the Ideal Free or Open Source EMR
- 5 Tips to Ensure a Smooth EHR Replacement Process
- Mitigate Malpractice Mistakes: 3 Risks Associated With EHR Implementation
You can also download our EHR Pricing Guide to find published pricing for many popular EHR systems:
Or you can reach out to our expert medical software advisors via phone or email to discuss your practice’s EHR needs. We’ll consider your budget and feature requirements and provide you with a short list of products that fit those specifications.