EHRs can improve provider charge capture, collections

Electronic health records can increase a provider's charge capture, leading to higher reimbursement, according to a new article in Medical Care Research and Review.

There have been conflicting reports as to whether the cost of adopting an EHR can be recouped. The researchers theorized that EHRs should improve charge capture through automation and enhanced coding capability. They studied a large integrated pediatric primary care network consisting of 260 providers across 42 practices from 2008 (which was before EHR implementation) through 2013. They analyzed monthly patient encounter, charge and collection data.

The EHR was independently associated with an $11.09 increase in "average per patient charges," an $11.49 increase in "average per patient collections" and an improvement in physician charge to collection ratios. The growth in charges and collections were likely due to increased orders for ancillary services, receiving more reimbursement for the same level of charges, or a combination of the two. The increase in reimbursements is likely attributable to improved documentation, forced completions of records and reduced coding errors.

The researchers also noted that the gains in collections did not appear to be offset by a significant decrease in patient encounters, and did create greater documentation parity among providers.

The study did raise the question of whether the patients received a higher quality of care, or if the reimbursement was merely due to better charting. It also didn’t answer whether the increased reimbursement was due to more accurate coding and documentation or misuse of the EHR.

“Despite high initial outlays and operating costs related to EHR adoption, these results suggest organizations may recoup many of these costs over the long term,” the authors stated.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract