Physicians: EHR costs outweigh financial benefits

Electronic health record provider athenahealth's recently published Physician Sentiment Index report finds that although most physicians believe EHRs can improve outcomes, more than half also say that the cost of such tools outweighs their benefit.

The Watertown, Mass.-based vendor polled 1,200 physicians: 70 percent specialists, 47 percent independent practitioners and 30 percent primary-care doctors.

While most respondents said they liked EHRs (38 percent reported a "somewhat favorable" opinion, while 31 percent had a "very favorable" opinion), 51 percent of respondents said the financial benefits of EHRs do not outweigh the cost. The report points out that independent physicians are more likely to feel this way than employed physicians.

Compared to the 2012 survey, familiarity with EHRs has increased, but willingness to purchase such tools has dropped. Another consistent opinion for 2013 is that respondents didn't think EHRs were made with doctors in mind. Similar to 2012, there is little consensus across 2013 respondents for the perceived ability of their vendors to coordinate care across their health ecosystem. 

HIMSS Analytics/Capsite Fifth Annual Ambulatory Practice Management and EHR Study, released in June, boasted similar results. For that study, researchers found that more than one-third (35 percent) of the 800-plus physician groups that responded plan to buy, replace or upgrade their EHRs.

EHR costs have proven to be problematic for many facilities. For instance, In May, the owners of Juneau, Alaska-based Bartlett Regional Hospital voted to break their contract with Cerner for a new system, rather than incur the expense of implementation. Meanwhile, Henry Ford Health System reported in April that its investment in an Epic system was a major factor in its 15 percent decrease in net income from 2011 to 2012. Additionally, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center reported this year that its adoption of a new Epic system caused it to suffer unanticipated losses and business cycle disruptions. 

These sobering reports continue to raise concern that health IT may be failing to live up to its promises of lower costs and increased efficiencies.   

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)