The price of Electronic Medical Records ( EMR ) software is quite high, but the benefits of adopting EMR software can save you a lot of money in the long run. If you are a physician running your own private practice, then you should be weighing the pros and cons of adopting an EMR system. Those days are long over when practices had to keep a pile of files to properly archive the information related to the multitude of patients who walked into their medical facilities.

Our dependence on paper is gradually decreasing and tools like EMR software can easily hold all the important medical data in hard disks, which occupy less space compared to the traditional sources. Proper archiving and categorization of data becomes easier if practices decide to replace their old filing methods with modern technology. Automation of data collection and retrieval can dramatically increase the productivity and efficiency of practices.

The price of an EMR system can range from a thousand dollars to ten thousand dollars, and sometimes they cost even more. The sky is the limit for these products and EMR costs increase as the system becomes more feature-rich. If you own a very small medical facility where you are the sole practitioner, then a light version of good EMR software worth five thousand dollars will serve the purpose. Huge facilities can buy complete EMR systems that cost around forty thousand dollars.

How to get the best deal

EMR software offers a number of benefits but practices should perform a cost-benefit analysis before adopting this new technology. This will help them know if the system will serve their purpose. EMR costs can be prohibitive and a huge amount of money is at stake if you choose a system that does not meet the needs of your practice. Therefore, it is important to be completely sure of the product before you make the purchase decision. You devote time to find the product that meets all your requirements and can be scaled in future. There are some points to consider when you conduct the cost – benefit analysis for the EMR system that you intend to purchase.

Analyze what you need to get done:
First of all, practices need to take note of their current and future requirements. They should be able to collect relevant information such as the number of physicians in the medical facility, the staff to physician ratio, the patient capacity of the center and the average number of phone calls help desk attends every workday.

Training:
If you are purchasing a low cost, entry level EMR software, you will have to pay a certain amount of money to train your staff. Most of the expensive EMR software packages come with free training of staff members, so that they can get used to the interface and handle the workload from day one. There might be some initial hiccups while operating the new software. It is therefore important that the EMR vendor agree to offer on-site training to the staff for the first few months.

Implementation:
The software provider will also charge for the implementation expenses involved in installing and configuring the hardware according to customers’ preferences. An increase in working staff members usually means an increase in the implementation costs. So, it can become a substantial amount for a large practice. Once the EMR software is installed, practices also need to digitalize all the information they had in the files to make the system completely functional.

Hardware:
As soon as practices adopt the EMR system, they discover the need to buy a lot of new hardware to provide proper support to their infrastructure. The prices of computers, printers and server stations should also be considered while you do cost and benefit analysis to gain a clearer picture of the EMR costs. If you want to utilize the EMR product to its full potential, then you need hardware that perfectly complements the software. Make sure that you buy the computer hardware after much deliberation so that it does not go obsolete in a few months. Computer hardware with the newest configuration should always be bought from a reputed dealer so that you are assured of support and maintenance whenever anything goes wrong.

Support and maintenance:
After installing the EMR software, practices need to make provision for annual maintenance costs that become necessary for both the newly acquired software and hardware. The power consumption of a medical facility will increase significantly once you have installed a number of computers and other related hardware to run the new system. Practices may also need to rewire the entire electrical architecture so that the system can take the load of the various machines that will need to be connected.

Hiring:
EMR costs can rise drastically if practices don’t hire a networking professional to monitor and maintain the network in their facilities. A networking expert will ensure that the workstations remain connected to each other and seamlessly exchange data. If you want to keep your system up and running at all times, then you will also need to hire a few hardware maintenance experts to keep a watch on the entire system.

Update:
Your work is not finished once the purchasing and installation have been completed, as the EMR software will need to be updated from time to time. This means a certain amount of expenditure has to be made every year. In order to keep your system up-to-date, you will need to sign certain agreements with the vendor so that you can get access to all the updates as they are released.

Replacing your traditional systems with modern technology may cost quite a lot but it is definitely one of the smartest decisions a practice can ever take. The benefits far outweigh the costs incurred in investing in an EMR system.

It may seem that the initial investment or the EMR costs are a bit high, but you will save a lot of time and money that you would have otherwise spent on papers, filing, and storage space. The cost of filing all of your patients’ medical records and billing information can surmount over the years. Even if you have the best file management system in the world, your will still have to spend a fortune every year to keep the paper documents intact.

Look for government assistance to help finance your EMR software. There are various federal grants that could subsidize EMR costs to your health care facility. With all of this information considered, one has to be very patient while looking for the EMR software for your health facility. Consultation with an EMR expert will definitely increase the chances of procuring a system that is cost-effective for you.

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