Electronic health records (EHR) are moderns marvels. The ability to communicate and safely store patient information has the potential to greatly improve quality of care.
Implementing EHR, however, is not costless. There is of course the cost of the EHR system itself and the cost of training staff on how to use the EHR system. patient. But one underappreciated aspect of EHR is that they require physical systems to work. And the cost of that physical infrastructure may often be overlooked. As the Federal News Network reports:
VA’s previous physical infrastructure estimates were unreliable, the department’s inspector general said earlier this week, raising questions about the overall costs of the EHR modernization effort.
VA is updating the electrical work, cabling, heating, cooling and ventilation to prepare for the Cerner Millennium suite at its medical facilities. The Veterans Health Administration estimated the costs of performing that work on two previous occasions — once in June 2019, when it projected the upgrades at $2.7 billion. VHA offered a second estimate later that year in November, when it said physical infrastructure upgrades would cost $1.1 billion.
But the actual costs for EHR physical infrastructure upgrades are likely more, potentially $3.1-to-$3.7 billion, according to the VA inspector general.
About 40 percent of these costs are just due to necessary fiber optic cable upgrades to insure fast internet speeds.
This doesn’t mean the EHR aren’t useful or aren’t worth the money. However, it is important the government and non-governmental facilities incorporate the full cost of EHR implementation.