What did I get out of my EMR purchase?

Or – How do I measure my benefit from my EMR?

“Now that I purchased my electronic medical record (EMR) system, how do I know that I’ve gotten my money’s worth?” Buyer’s remorse is a natural reaction to sticker shock. Vendors and consultants can help control their clients anxiety by helping them define necessary measurable outputs that may signal the desired objective of the EMR purchase.

Defining parameters, however, is not a one-sided chore. Also called outputs, both client and consultant can help each other align expectation with reality by adopting outputs that are realistic and relevant. Historically, the easiest measures have either been workflow or financial.

In most offices, an EMR can trim front desk and clinical efficiencies. It is possible to save $8.00 per patient visit with an EMR simply by eliminating costs of locating, filing and refiling of patient paper charts. In a typical medical office, that translates to over $8,000 in operating expernses per provider per year. In a multi-physician practice, the savings can easily approach $100,000 or more. Improvements in coding, faster reimbursements through EDI, and the elminiation of transcription costs can reach over $20,000 per physician per year.

If financial returns are not enough, e-prescribing will reduce prescription errors by more than a third through alerts for drug interactions, adverse events, and formullary acceptance. For the patient, e-prescribing can reduce drug costs by facilitating generic order fulfillment by the pharmacy. For the pharmacy, work flows are streamlined rather than dangling on a telephone playing patient and provider “Tag”.

Dangling such outputs or cost reductions to prospective clients, equals revenue optimization and bottom line profit for physician owners. Helping providers visualize these kinds of results equates further to the concept that for every $10,000 of operating expense there needs to be at least $100,000 of revenue.

Are financial or workflow improvements relevant and valid for prospective clients? They should be easy to measure. Ask vendors and consultants for a cost and work flow assessment prior to purchase. Remind them to project realistic revenue enhancement when measuring and recording outputs. This is a key objective of any EMR project.. Maintaining focus on these measures will facilitate engagement, and keep both practice and provider happy.


Richard Hom is a EMR advocate and public policy consultant who has been a product and marketing manager for six software products. His blend of direct patient care and technology know-how brings pragmatism to technology in health care.

Linda Stotsky is both a hands-on health information technology (HIT) consultant and a product man-ager who has extensive experience in matching customers to solutions. Her command of the complete value chain of HIT is deep and her able skill in vertical and horizontal communications is well-known.

About Richard Hom OD, MPA

Dr. Hom holds Doctor of Optometry and Masters in Public Administration degrees and practices family eye care and consults on public policy, health information technology and program evaluation.
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