Health IT costs for physician practices are soaring, yet there isn’t much evidence that all the spending has been worth it, a new report suggests.
In its annual report on cost and revenue for physician practices, the Medical Group Management Association found that physician-owned multispecialty practices spent $32,592 per full-time doctor on IT hardware, software, maintenance, staff and other needs in 2015. That is up 42 percent from $22,944 in 2009 and 19.5 percent from $27,285 in 2011, the Englewood, Colorado-based MGMA said.
The 2015 costs break down as $9,405 for IT staff and $23,187 for equipment, maintenance and supplies.
In recent years, providers have been hit with multiple federal mandates and programs that have necessitated health IT spending. These include the transitions to the ANSI 5010 standard for HIPAA transactions in 2012 and to ICD-10 in 2015, as well as Meaningful Use and the Physician Quality Reporting System. “It’s the sheer number of them,” said Robert Tennant, MGMA director of health IT policy.
And there has not been a solid return on investment, according to the report.
“They spend this money and they’re really not sure that they’ve gotten what they were promised,” Tennant said. The improved patient outcomes, reduced hassle and lower costs simply haven’t materialized, he explained.
“There’s really no correlation between the [Meaningful Use] program and improved patient care,” Tennant said. Usability has been a well-documented issue with electronic health records, too.
“Productivity is suffering,” Tennant added. “There’s a level of frustration with technology that I’ve never seen before.”
Healthcare has long been perceived as being far behind the rest of the business world when it comes to adopting information technology, but Tennant didn’t think that the need to play catch-up has been a major factor in the escalating costs.
“To be competitive in today’s healthcare environment, you have to offer all the bells and whistles,” he said. For medical practices, that means patient portals, 24/7 access to test results and the ability to schedule appointments and pay bills online. “In the D.C. market, that’s a huge selling point,” the Washington-based Tennant said.
Plus, he added, new physicians, who grew up in the digital age and used EHRs in medical school and residency, do not want to work at paper-based practices.
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