Revenue Cycle Management Blog | GroupOne Health Source

3 Reasons You are Still Using Paper Charts at Your Medical Practice

Written by Kaitlyn Houseman | April 22, 2014

Still thinking about switching from paper charts to an EHR for your practice? If you are like most doctors still using paper, you probably think an EHR is either going to come in between you and your patients or is just too expensive. The start-up costs and implementation can be daunting for some. However, hanging onto your paper-based ways may not be as beneficial for your practice.

As the previous sales coordinator at GroupOne Health Source, I've talked to a number of practices in the early stages of considering or evaluating an EMR/PM software.  Some concerns I hear on a daily basis include:

  1. "An EMR is too expensive"
  2. "I don't have time to switch to an EMR"
  3. "I don't need an EMR to be a good doctor"
There's no question that other concerns exist.  These are just the three I hear most often. However, if you have a different concern, please leave a comment and we will write a future blog post that addresses it.  In the mean time, let's focus on these three reasons most medical practices are still using paper charts.

1)  An EMR is too expensive

Buying and installing an EMR can be a significant investment, especially in the initial stages.  It isn't uncommon for a three-physician practice to spend upward of $30,000.
However, an EMR can lead to significant cost savings. Most practices see a decline in transcription costs and overhead costs.  When your practice is using paper charts the raw materials used per new patient can range in costs from $3 to $7.  If you see even 50 new patients in a month that can add up to a savings of $4,000 annually.
When you switch to an EMR you also gain storage space.  Good-bye paper and hello an extra 300 square feet of office space!  And when it comes to coding and billing your EMR should help you code more accurately while also saving your billing team time on accessing the records.

2) I don't have time to switch to an EMR.

Most of us don't have extra time for anything outside of our daily activities. However, if you are dedicated to the idea of switching to an EMR then you can make time. Organization is important and working with experts is going to save you the time and hassle of extensive and ongoing training.
Put together an EMR search team for your practice and hold meetings to discuss what you plan to achieve with an EMR. Do preliminary demonstrations to see which software is going to be user friendly for not only the physician but the entire staff. Work with a vendor that will have your best interest at heart when it comes to the training. Be sure that the training will be of the quality you expect.
If you get it right the first time and invest in your staff's training it will save you significant time and headaches down the road. In the end, making time to choose the right EHR and making time to learn how to use it will pay off.

3) I don't need an EMR to be a good doctor.

Of course you don't need an EMR to be a good doctor, but an EMR can help you be better. The templates may remind you to ask a question you otherwise would forget. If you enter a prescription into the EMR that interacts with an existing medication or may trigger an allergic reaction the EMR will warn you; not to mention the patient education and visit summary that is available when using an EMR software.
Patient education is also needed for Meaningful Use if you are interested in attesting and earning incentive payments from CMS. Of course an EMR can't replace the knowledge, experience, and compassion of a doctor, but it can help the practice communicate with patients outside of the office.
A patient portal allows patients to send messages to your office, refill prescriptions, obtain patient education materials, check lab results, and schedule appointments. Most patient portals will deliver these capabilities plus many more.
An EMR might not be for everyone and there is no doubt that switching from paper to an EMR software is challenging.  The process can be frustrating and it is a lot of hard work.  However, every frustration and every minute spent learning the EMR will be worth every penny.