Medical Software Systems in the Real World: A Case Study

It’s easy to talk about the benefits of medical software systems such as electronic health records and integrated medical billing systems/medical appointment software in theory. It’s thought that using internal or online EHR software can improve efficiency by around 6% a year, and features such as billing integration and appointment reminders can be key in improving profitability.

It’s no wonder, then, that the adoption of EHRs has been so rapid. In 2011, just 55% of physicians had an EHR system; it’s tough to get more recent data, but the federal government estimates that as of 2013, nearly 80% of physicians had started using electronic systems. Plus, nearly half of physicians who don’t have systems plan to either purchase one or implement the use of one that’s already been purchased within the next year.

But do these medical software systems actually live up to their potential in the real world? One recently published case study indicates they can — and, indeed, go far beyond expectations.

What EHR Implementation Looks Like

A 13-provider eye clinic in North Carolina was able to earn back its initial investment on an EHR system (around $500,000) in less than three years due to lower administrative labor costs, higher revenue and increased productivity, according to the study published July 22 in the journal Ophthalmology.

“Our clinic was a busy, high-volume practice to start with,” Dr. Robert E. Wiggins Jr, the case study’s lead author, told Medscape Medical News. “Those providers were able to see a few more patients a day. Those small changes in productivity really amounted to a substantial increase in profitability.”

Moreover, benefits increased over time as doctors began seeing repeat patients — meaning they could just update existing records rather creating new ones. Wiggins said this is where the improved efficiency of using EHRs really became apparent.

Buying new practice management software partway through the study period that was integrated into the EHR system also improved the profitability of the clinic by raising the percentage of captured charges, improving billing efficiency and increasing collections.


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