Unexpected EHR costs you will face during implementation

Even with the most meticulous planning, EHR implementation can result in unexpected costs. It can be an unwieldy process that can easily involve unexpected cost overruns. that even in the most well-planned implementation efforts. One way to avoid this is by using case studies of other implementation efforts to understand problem areas that cause practices to experience EHR cost overruns.   

A recent study by research service Capterra indicates that providers spend an average of $31,710 more per year than they expect. Further, a survey reported in Medical Economics tracking unanticipated costs by the study's physicians showed that out-of-pocket expenses found in the first six months of an EHR implementation averaged $6,516. Despite the prevalence of cost overruns, their risk can be minimized by understanding problem areas and planning accordingly. The following list represents four unexpected EHR costs you may run into during implementation.

Hardware-software, peripheral and network connections

A practice can model with some certainty the amount of technology infrastructure needed to implement an EHR. Although when it comes to the massive amount of material needed to set up a system or replace old or incompatible hardware, there is a strong opportunity to underestimate expenses. In the Medical Economics study referenced above participants on average spent $5,900 on purchases related to hardware, software, peripherals, and network connections.

Forecast basic EHR costs and build your budget with our comprehensive EHR pricing guide

IT and outside support

Practices often overlook the need for IT and outside support during implementation. The implementation may include snags from a variety of factors and require additional support beyond what the vendor offers, or in some cases, a vendor may charge for IT support.  For practices which will use in-house resources, the true costs for this become even more easy to overlook when staff hours are diverted away from their usual duties and EHR costs are not often as apparent as a bill from a third party.

Overtime and lost productivity

As staff becomes acclimated to a new EHR, there will be inevitable productivity loss which should be viewed as a tangible cost that practices should consider. Lost productivity may be an ongoing factor due to the learning curve for the EHR and as staff adapts their workflows. The study by Medical Economics referenced above suggests that during implementation “you can expect to see up to 50% fewer patients.” The costs incurred as a result of implementation related productivity loss will vary according to practice and steps taken to mitigate these losses.

Customization charges

After diligently selecting an EHR a practice may discover that when a system is put into use that customization may be needed. Unfortunately, these features often come at a price. In this case, it is important to understand before implementation how workflows will be impacted by the EHR and be confident that the EHR’s forms, configuration, and other features are fit for purpose.

Forecasting costs for implementing an EHR can be an imprecise art at times, however, a practice can keep in mind problem areas that potentially could result in cost overruns and build in a cushion in their budget to accommodate for unexpected EHR costs.

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Jeff Green

About the author…

Jeff Green, MPH, JD works as a freelance writer and consultant in the Healthcare information Technology Space.

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Jeff Green