Study identifies costs of implementing electronic health records in network of physician practices

Research Activities October 2011, No. 374

The real-life cost of implementing electronic health records (EHRs) in an average five-physician primary care practice, operating within a large physician network committed to network-wide implementation of electronic health records, is about $162,000 with an additional $85,500 in maintenance expenses during the first year, reveals a new study. Those figures include the average 134 hours per physician needed to prepare for use of the records during clinical visits. Neil S. Fleming, Ph.D., of the Baylor Health Care System, and coinvestigators conducted a 2.5-year study of 26 primary care practices within a 450-physician practice network in north Texas, while the practices implemented a commercial electronic medical record, electronic forms, and a clinical messaging system.

The cost of implementing the EHR system was $32,409 per physician through the first 60 days after system launch—similar to costs reported from community-wide initiatives in Massachusetts and New York City. One-time hardware costs were $25,000 per practice for Internet switches, cables, and wireless Internet connections—plus approximately $7,000 per physician for personal computers, printers, and scanners. Software and maintenance costs (which began at implementation) came to approximately $17,100 per physician annually.

In addition, there were 134.2 hours of nonfinancial costs (representing a monetary cost of $10,325 in salaries) for each physician and his or her support staff—primarily for entering information from paper records. Other nonfinancial costs through 60 days after implementation included 480.5 hours ($28,025 in salaries) per practice for efforts of the practice network's implementation team and 130 hours ($7,857 in salaries) for the practice's own implementation team. The study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS18220).

More details are in "The financial and nonfinancial costs of implementing electronic health records in primary care practices," by Dr. Fleming, Steven D. Culler, Ph.D., Russell McCorkle, M.B.A., and others in the March 2011 Health Affairs 30(3), pp. 481-489.

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Current as of October 2011
Internet Citation: Study identifies costs of implementing electronic health records in network of physician practices: Research Activities October 2011, No. 374. October 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/oct11/1011RA15.html