Report: EHRs Don't Come Cheap

The cost specifics were included in articles by and , which had access to the full report, "The Financial and Nonfinancial Costs Of Implementing Electronic Health Records In Primary Care Practices."

A five-physician primary-care practice can expect to spend about $233,000 to implement electronic health records, including $85,500 in maintenance expenses in the first year, a new federally financed academic study found.

Teams setting up and implementing the network and a medical practice's records required an average of 611 hours in preparation and implementation time, researchers from the Texas-based Baylor Health Care System determined. Physicians and staff needed an average of 134 hours per physician to get up to speed on using the EHR system to treat patients.

The Baylor University researchers reported their findings in the March issue of the policy journal Health Affairs (subscription required). Their research examined EHR implementation at 26 family and internal-medicine practices in the HealthTexas Provider Network affiliated with the Baylor Health Care System.

Costs included:

  • $25,000 for switches, cables and wireless Internet connections
  • $7,000 per physician for computers, printers and scanners
  • $17,100 per physician in maintenance costs, including third-party vendor support
  • $162,047 in overall costs in the first 60 days of implementation.

The authors say the findings could represent both a best-case scenario and an excessive-case scenario, according to ModernHealthcare. The practices received "substantial corporate support," but the network implementation team also might have provided "more resources than necessary."

Funds for the study came from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the Health and Human Services Department. Practices included in the report implemented EHRs between 2004 and 2009.