Find innovative ways to keep your practice's IT budget on track

Focus on value to separate need-to-haves from nice-to-haves
Tools

While experts don't advise skimping on the EHR systems that smaller practices buy, there are other ways to budget carefully that pay off, according to a Physicians Practice article.

The three-physician practice Four Seasons Pediatrics in Clifton Park, N.Y., for instance, decided it didn't have to have top-of-the-line high-speed computer terminals in each exam room, so it bought refurbished models off eBay.

"When you're buying on a limited budget, you have to find the tool that will be useful for the task you need it for," Derek Kosiorek, principal consultant with the Medical Group Management Association's healthcare consulting group, is quoted as saying. "Don't buy something just because it looks like it will help, but have proof that it will help."

For instance, a blood pressure cuff that will automatically send results to an EHR might be handy, but will it cost less than having staff do it?

Skimping on important purchases, though, can cost more in the long run. And be sure to budget for ongoing support and maintenance fees.

However, there are other ways to stretch your IT budget, including:

  • Look into pay-for-performance programs, such as insurance incentive programs.
  • Consider cloud-based data storage rather than maintaining servers on-premises.
  • Digital signing technology saves money on paper, printing, copying, delivery and filing costs.

The article also suggests these technologies can be cost-effective add-ons to an EHR system:

  1. Upgraded billing system. Having a unified system allows physicians to see the cost implications of clinical decisions, such as prescribing medications.
  2. Automated phone system. This can integrate with your practice management system and save staff time spent on reminder calls.
  3. Patient portal. This technology will become more important over the next few years for the patient-engagement requirements of Meaningful Use.

Computerized provider order entry systems that displayed the costs of tests led to a reduction in the number of tests ordered, according to a study from Johns Hopkins Hospital. Meanwhile, an Australian study found that medication IT systems did not take time away from direct patient care.

A Health Affairs study from March found that physicians lost nearly $44,000 over five years of their adoption of an EHR, mainly because they don't change their operations to accommodate changes in record keeping.

To learn more:
- find the article

Related Articles:
Cost reminders via CPOE lead to fewer test orders
Medication IT doesn't take time away from patient care
Study: Physician EHR-users not seeing return on investment