By April L. Jasper, OD, FAAO
Electronic health records can boost the productivity and efficiency of your practice—and save you thousands of dollars per month.
Optometric practices arefasttransitioning to electronic healthrecords, in orderto serve patients better while creating a practice with more seamless operations. What many ODs haven’t considered are the substantial cost savings to implementing EHR. Using electronic rather than paper records is a way to save your practice money that will strengthen your bottom line and give you the ability for greater practice growth investments.
April L. Jasper, OD, FAAO
Advanced Eyecare Specialists
One doctor; one location
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry
Corneal Refractive Therapy
Our implementation of EHR was in June 2006. Following implementation we went through a learning curve of two months, did a financial analysis and found we needed one less staff member per doctor after the learning curve period was over; print cartridges savings of around $6,000 per year; chart costs savings of $7,000 per year; and the saving of appointment space being used for more profitable activities than storing charts totaling $9,000. We were able to add about five additional patient appointment spaces. The addition of an average of five patient appointment spaces available per day in a fully integrated practice could make a practice an additional 279 x 5=$1,395 per day.
Cost savings are even greater as you become more efficient and integrate more instrumentation and better utilize staff that are freed up for more practice building activities or marketing activities. With our new-found time, we started marketing to primary care doctors and pediatricians. Over a year’s time this program generated over $100,000 in revenue as tracked with our Officemate system.
Nearly Immediate ROI
Withthe federal government’s electronic records incentive program, you break even as soon as you get your first Medicare check when you add in the additional savings listed above. Remember, during the first year of implementation for Meaningful Use criteria (using EHR in a way the government defines as “meaningful”) you can get your money (if you have billed enough) after three months of Meaningful Use.
Integrate Instrumentation Software
To get the greatest in cost savings, integrate the reporting capabilities of each piece of instrumentation with your EHR system–so that the results of testings get fed immediately and automatically into the EHR system. Without integration–especially in the refractive lane–you will not see the time savings that allow you to see more patients. Use your vendors to make certain your integration is set up for each piece of instrumentation.
Add Up the Cost Savings
One fewer staff member: Approx. $30,000 annually
Print cartridges: $6,000 annually
Chart costs: $7,000
Appointment space being used for more profitable activities than storing charts totaling $9,000
Staff freed up for more practice building activities or marketing activities. We started marketing to primary care doctors and pediatricians. Over a year’s this program generated over $100,000.
Total: $152,000 annually
One example of successful integration of instrumentation software with our EHR is our automated refracting system by Marco. We have it integrated so after the refraction is completed all of the information gets transmitted into the EHR with the touch of a button saving my staff at least 50 clicks of a mouse.
Train to Realize Full Cost Savings
To increase adoption by your staff, provide ample training so they understand your new EHR’s full functionality. Do the suggested trainings and make certain to buy the hardware the EHR requires. Cutting corners in hardware requirements will result in poor running systems and frustration for everyone. I wholeheartedly recommend that doctors exceed hardware minimum requirements for things such as RAM and processor speed because of the many types of software that have to be utilized on each workstation, as well as the rapid advancements that take place in technology.
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April L. Jasper, OD, FAAO, is owner of Advanced Eyecare Specialists in West Palm Beach, Fla. To contact her: email@example.com