More on Budgeting

Doctors spending more money on IT

Federal incentives are driving the increased investments

Information technology expenditures in medical practices have risen 27.8 percent since 2008 reports a cost survey released by the Medical Group Management Association.

The median expenditure per full-time equivalent physician in 2008 was $15,211. In 2012, it was $19,439.

[See also: Investing in technology]

Driving the increase in IT purchasing, MGMA noted in its report, are federal incentives to encourage physicians to invest.

HIMSS20 Digital

Learn on-demand, earn credit, find products and solutions. Get Started >>

“Due to the incentivization that was going on, people have made that [EHR] investment and they realize that moving forward, over time, that was truly the carrot of things — we’re going to encourage you to make this investment,” Todd Evenson, vice president of consulting services and data solutions for MGMA-ACMPE, told Healthcare Finance News’ sister publication, Medical Practice Insider.

Eventually, Evenson added, the government will use a “stick” – reductions in reimbursements – to get physician practices to invest in IT.

MGMA’s cost report also showed that the growing investments in information technology don’t stop at the basic, bare-wires hardware — there’s an increasing investment in hiring as well.

It’s becoming a widely accepted fact among providers and practice managers that it’s no longer sufficient to merely have an EHR system in place, Evenson noted. Medical groups are more likely to want to have IT professionals on staff, he said, in order to service their data needs moving forward.

“Not only is it the implementation, it’s the optimization after you have an EHR in place that truly makes it effective,” he said. “Day one, the rollout is wonderful in terms of ‘we went through this very difficult experience and we’ve gone through the process to the point where this EHR is online.’ However, truly where the rubber meets the road is in the go-forward, in how are we going to use this tool to improve patient care. It’s really in that space that we’re seeing wise groups make investments so they can leverage that technology and data.”

Despite the increased investment in IT in recent years, the road to an industry-wide embrace of EHRs remains riddled with potholes – the biggest being the tenuous business environment physicians and medical practices find themselves in.

“To think of typical business, to make money, you have to spend money,” Evenson said. “And when practice or provider organizations are in a situation where they’re unclear about the reimbursement model of the future, it’s really lent itself to an environment where there’s a great deal of concern and because of that concern, the likelihood of making those investments has really been constrained.”

This story is based on an article published by Medical Practice Insider.