Doctors to Lose Money on Electronic Records, Survey Finds
By Alex Nussbaum - Mar 4, 2013 4:00 PM ET
Most doctors who install electronic medical records systems will lose money in the first five years, according to a study that suggests a multibillion-dollar effort to computerize care in the U.S. may not live up to its promise.
A survey of Massachusetts physicians indicated an initial loss of $43,743 on the investment, researchers said today in the journal Health Affairs. Almost two-thirds of the 49 practices using electronic records would lose money even with subsidies included in President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, the researchers said.
The 2009 law set aside $27 billion to help doctors and hospitals go digital, ballooning sales along the way for technology providers including Epic Systems Corp. and Allscripts Healthcare Solutions Inc. (MDRX) The Massachusetts results show companies and politicians may have oversold the potential gains, said Julia Adler-Milstein, the study’s lead author.
“My concern is around the rhetoric and the hype and the assumption that we’ll put these systems in and we see the benefit the next day,” Adler-Milstein, an assistant professor of information and health policy at University of Michigan, said in a telephone interview. “It’s going to be a much longer journey.”
Even the doctors who would have made money dispute the premise pushed by supporters that electronic systems can help reduce U.S. health costs, she said. Practices projected to gain did so mainly because they were able to see more patients or get more claims approved by insurers, the study found.
As of January, more than 210,000 physicians had received payments through the stimulus program, the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services said on its website. Closely held Epic, based in Verona, Wisconsin, has been the leading vendor for doctor’s offices, followed by Chicago-based Allscripts, accor