Healthcare News & Insights

Will you need more staff after implementing EHRs?

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Don’t assume EHRs will automatically lead to a reduction in staff.

While that’s often the case, an organization’s staffing needs “post-EHR” will vary greatly depending on its size and goals.

For example: A large hospital looking to eliminate paper will face a far different scenario than a small family practice looking to improve overall patient care and reduce time spent on administrative tasks. In the case of the family practice, which is probably already running lean, chances of reducing staff are small. But the current staff may be able to take on expanded roles, and even open up additional lines of revenue. In the case of the hospital, jobs that are paper-reliant (like filing clerks) will most likely be eliminated — or at minimum, greatly changed.

Implementing EHRs

Experts advise that the health care providers not make any decisions regarding EHRs until they’ve quantified their long-term goals: Seeing 10% more patients, eliminating paper records, saving X dollars per year, etc. With that goal in mind, it’s easier both to implement a program as well as to plan for life after implementation.

During, and just after, implementing EHRs, it’s typical to require more staffing, if for no other reason than people are adjusting to new processes and new roles. In an organization that isn’t already running at peak efficiency, the switch can be particularly chaotic.

Case studies: Some reduce headcount, some add

American Medical News recently profiled several organizations’ staffing needs before and after EHR implementation. For example, one three-doctor endocrinology practice was able to save more than $15,000 a year in reduced costs. Rather than reducing head count, it saw the program as a way to invest in existing employees and retrain them to take on higher-level duties and expand operations. Eventually, it tripled the size of the practice and added two full-time employees to handle the increased workload.

On the flip side, a multi-site neurological practice that originally had 165 employees was able to reduce 12 positions after implementing EHRs. In the process, it saved $435k from cost reductions and increased revenue.

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