EMRs affect staffing in so many ways

It's long been known that EMRs change the way physicians practice, nurses document and orders get processed. A well-implemented EMR, with integrated billing, scheduling and charge capture, also has a profound effect on the front and back offices.

That's a message hammered home in an American Medical News story this week about the impact of EMRs on physician practice staffing levels. As with just about any EMR installation, the effect varies greatly by practice. Some will be able to eliminate clerical positions, but don't always count on saving on employment expenses. Many jobs will transform from paper pushing into more skilled and higher-paid computer work.

"Some have this vision of Xanadu. That they just drop the thing in and somehow things are going to get a lot better," says Chad Kerr, clinical consulting lead for UnitedHealth Group's Ingenix Consulting. "Most underestimate [the transition process] greatly, particularly in the way of staffing." In fact, practices typically need to bring in extra help for a first few months after turning on an EMR.

But a well-implemented system can make the whole organization run more efficiently, as a large group practice like Fort Wayne (Ind.) Neurological Center found. The specialty practice had a net gain of $430,000 due to the EMR, and was able to eliminate 12 positions, a combination of higher revenues and greater efficiency. A small endocrinology practice in Vero Beach, Fla., however, which didn't have any full-time IT people, saved $15,000 by cutting outside dictation services, and actually added staff because its patient volume jumped.

For further details:
check out this AMNews story