- EHR implementation has had a variety of goals throughout the healthcare industry including achieving the triple aim of healthcare, which focuses on improving the quality of patient care, reducing healthcare costs, and boosting population health outcomes. Additionally, EHR implementation was meant to improve productivity and reimbursement among medical facilities.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association reveals whether EHR implementation brought about improvements in reimbursement and productivity among ambulatory practices.
The results showed that reimbursement rates did rise significantly with the help of EHR implementation. However, ambulatory practice productivity went down across the two years researchers examined. The increased revenue was caused by the uptake in ancillary office procedures like drawing blood, immunizations, ultrasounds and wound care.
Overall, finding that EHR implementation is associated with increasing revenue within the medical sphere is a boost to the industry and may affect the triple aim of healthcare as well. These type of results indicate that investing in health IT systems and certified EHR technology is beneficial for all.
The reason researchers from Drexel University focused on EHR implementation within ambulatory practices is due to the fact that health IT integration has been slow among these medical entities. Even though meaningful use regulations under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs provide financial assistance to healthcare organizations adopting and implementing certified EHR technology, a smaller percentage of ambulatory practices have digitized patient health records.
One of the key concerns has been that EHR implementation may actually have negative consequences for both reimbursement and productivity within a medical practice. This research, however, indicates that adopting EHR systems should have a beneficial impact on the revenue cycle of ambulatory practices.
The Drexel University researchers looked at the number of patient visits among 30 ambulatory practices before and after EHR implementation and tracked the reimbursement rates associated with each visit. There was a loss of patient visits after implementing EHR systems that seemed to stabilize after a period of time among most of the facilities. However, six ambulatory practices still had productivity losses even after two years’ time.
Despite a potential loss in productivity, the increased revenue stream due to EHR implementation shows a clear benefit of health IT systems for the medical industry. EHR implementation was associated with an uptake in billing more ancillary procedures.
“A major reason for the slow uptake of EHRs—and delayed access to the benefits of EHR—has been financial concerns about the impact of EHR implementation on practice productivity and reimbursements,” the researchers wrote in the published paper. “The bottom line news is good: practice revenues increased during EHR implementation despite persistent productivity losses. EHR implementation in this study increased reimbursements but reduced long-term practice productivity across all specialties. While the productivity losses can be seen in a negative light, these findings also suggest a type of efficiency in which the practices are getting paid more for seeing fewer patients.”