Feature | March 12, 2007 | Cristen C. Bolan

Real ROI on an EMR

EMR’s generate the greatest gains in reduced overhead, efficient billing and on-demand access.

EMR’s generate the greatest gains in reduced overhead, efficient billing and on-demand access.

While the return on investment on an electronic medical record (EMR) may not appear for several months or years – does that make the EMR any less valuable? The physicians at the Semmes-Murphey Neurologic and Spine Institute in Memphis, TN, don’t seem to think so. Their new EMR system has afforded them both short-term overhead reductions and long-term conveniences that are hard to quantify, but worth every penny.
This multispecialty practice, which provides neurosurgery, neurology, physiatry, pain management and neuro-psychology and manages three locations, integrated a PACS (Merge eMed), an EMR (Centricity by GE Healthcare) and practice management system.
“The return was more immediate for PACS than it was for EMR. Savings for us on EMR came over time,” said John A. Lewis, chief operating officer, Semmes-Murphey Neurologic and Spine Institute. With the PACS, this year alone we will probably save $250,000 on film. With an EMR, we reduced our medical records staff through natural attrition by six FTEs. You’re talking close to $150,000 a year. In the transcription area, we have got one admin supporting two to three doctors.”
The center is 75 percent of the way integrated and expects more efficiency gains in part through a new voice recognition system designed to streamline the shift in data input duties to the patient care staff, the nurse staff and the physicians. The facility will also gain physical space from the removal of the files. “We will gain a significant amount of square footage in our medical records department by reducing paper charts. We can now use it for patient care space or expand into physical therapy,” Lewis said.
Possibly the biggest gain has been convenience. “I don’t know how you put a price on this, but it is so much more convenient for everybody,” emphasized Lewis. “You don’t have 15 people looking for the same chart. The information is available to everybody on demand. Our doctors can access patient charts from home and from the hospital. It is particularly convenient for physicians who are on call and need to access a patient chart.”
“The documentation is now more consistent, and it helps you bill at a more accurate level,” said Lewis.
Semmes-Murphey expects to reach100 percent full usage of the EMR system by the end of next year – three years after initiating the project. Lewis noted, “It’s a tough transition, but in the long term it was absolutely the right decision.”

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