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Spending on Electronic Health Records Exceeds Expectations

By Frank Irving

- The price tag for electronic health records systems exceeds buyers’ spending expectations by 37 percent, according to a new report released by software research firm Capeterra. The final yearly tab for EHR software averages nearly $118,000, about $32,000 more than anticipated, reported 400 physicians, nurses and administrators surveyed for the report.

EHR system users report buying patterns

Actual spending outstripped estimates most often for systems costing between $500 and $10,000. Costs were in line with budgets for the largest segment of respondents, those who bought systems priced at $50,000 or more.

“Pricing transparency will help clinics and hospitals better budget for software, closing the gap between what buyers expect to spend and what they end up spending,” the study report says.

The survey also revealed other buying patterns. About 86 percent of respondents have been using their EHR software for less than five years, which roughly aligns with the 2010 launch of the federal Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

Slightly more than a third were using a different EHR before purchasing their current system. Of those who switched software, about 52 percent did so because their previous system lacked required features. About 28 percent changed vendors because the previous EHR was no longer supported. The high cost of switching EHRs may be a factor in buyers hanging on to the software until support runs out, the survey report says.

Purchase decisions came quickly for respondents, with 56 percent spending six months or less searching for an EHR — in line with expectations. The largest segment of buyers demoed only two systems before making a purchase, according to the study, compared to only 27 percent who looked at three or more options.

Nearly 40 percent of surveyed buyers considered functionality to be the highest priority when choosing their EHR, followed by ease of use at 24 percent. Only 6 percent rated support as their chief priority, and a scant 5 percent put vendor reputation atop their list of most important factors.

Overall, the top five functional EHR capabilities requested by respondents were voice recognition (29 percent), mobile integration (14 percent), medical dictionary (14 percent), telemedicine (11 percent) and marketing (10 percent). However, requested features varied somewhat by respondent role. Physicians were most interested in telemedicine and voice recognition. Nurses favored voice recognition as well, but listed mobile integration as their second most-sought feature. Administrators had high interest in medical dictionaries and marketing functionality.

The most-used EHR features reported by respondents are patient portal, appointment booking, patient reminders, specialty-specific charts and physician scheduling.

About 70 percent of respondents are satisfied or very satisfied with their EHR purchase, according to the study. Only 7 percent report being dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Of those not happy with their EHR, nearly 90 percent attribute it to lack of functionality (i.e., no voice recognition, medical dictionary or mobile integration) or poor usability.

Surveyed buyers report the biggest positive impact of their EHR in improving patient safety and records security, and reducing time spent finding and updating records. EHR detractors point out their software’s inability to integrate with other systems, making it difficult to share records across cares settings.

Capterra collected data for the report through a 22-question online survey of current EHR users.