Healthcare IT costs in 2015 increased to over $32,500 per full-time physician according to a recent study published by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).
The 2016 Cost and Revenue Report is a useful benchmarking tool for the healthcare industry, and has been since it was first published in 2009. This year’s report highlights just how much healthcare IT costs are rising. When the study was first performed in 2009, healthcare IT costs were 40% lower.
One of the main factors that increased IT costs over the past 6 years was the introduction of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in 2009. After HITECH was passed, many organizations introduced electronic health record systems (EHRs), which saw costs rise significantly in 2010 and 2011.
Under the Meaningful Use Program organizations received incentives for adopting EHRs, although those incentive payments have now decreased. That has meant the cost of maintaining EHRs and upgrading systems now needs to be covered by each healthcare organization.
Those costs are not insignificant, and neither is the cost of employing staff. IT staffing costs have increased by 47% since the study was first conducted.
Many practices have also paid to have patient portals developed. According to a survey conducted by MGMA, more than 50% of healthcare practices that were polled said they had introduced portals that allow patients to make appointments online. However, development, deployment, and maintenance of patient portals carries a cost. The improvement in efficiency will offset some of the cost, but that can take time.
Healthcare IT costs in 2015 rose considerably, yet concern has been expressed about how many of the additional costs are necessary to ensure compliance with federal regulations. IT costs have risen, but the money has not been spent on areas that directly improve patient care.
As Halee Fischer-Wright, president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association, pointed out in a recent statement, “Unless we see significant changes in the final MIPS/APM rule, practice IT costs will continue to rise without a corresponding improvement in the care delivery process.”