Hospital E-Record Systems Pay for Themselves

In one instance, initial outlay was recouped in 16 months, study found

THURSDAY, July 12, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Despite many hospitals' reluctance to make the investment, installing an electronic medical records system pays for itself in less than two years, a new study finds.

Such a system was put in place at the University of Rochester Medical Center, N.Y., and recouped its initial cost within 16 months, say the authors of a study in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

That experience runs counter to the worries of many health care providers, who are often reluctant to invest in such tracking systems.

"Health care providers most frequently cite cost as a primary obstacle to adopting an electronic medical records system. And, until this point, evidence supporting a positive return on investment for electronic health records technologies has been largely anecdotal," study co-author Dr. David A. Krusch, of the department of surgery at the University of Rochester, said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues analyzed the return on investment of an electronic health records system used in five ambulatory offices representing 28 health care providers. The study compared the costs of a number of tasks -- such as pulling patient charts, creating new charts, filing time, support staff salary, and data transcription -- in the third quarter of 2005 (after the system was installed) to costs in the third quarter of 2003, when the tasks were still being done manually.

The new system reduced costs by almost $394,000 per year, the study found, and nearly two-thirds of those savings came from a drastic reduction in the amount of time required to manually pull patient charts. The electronic medical records system cost $484,577 to install and operate in the first year, which means the medical center recouped its investment within 16 months.

After the first year, it cost about $114,000 a year to operate the system. That means an annual savings of more than $279,500 for the medical center, which works out to close to $10,000 per health care provider using the system, the researchers said.

More information

The American Health Information Management Association has more about personal medical records.

SOURCE: American College of Surgeons, news release, July 12, 2007
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