EHR costs and benefits: is the implementation worth it?

EHR costs and benefits: is the implementation worth it?

February 15, 2023

EHR cost breakdown

A Health Affairs study, cited by the largest EHR information resource EHR in Practice, suggests that solo and small practices could recover the average cost of an EHR after 2.5 years. Let’s explore what the average EHR cost depends on. A recent report by Software Path highlights the correspondence between the size of the healthcare practice and the rates it pays for each system user per year. It indicates that EHR adoption may be more cost-effective for larger organizations.

Chart title: Average budget per user (physician) per year for EHR software

Data source: — What practices look for when selecting EHR (2022 EHR report)

A chart created by the Michigan Center for Effective IT Adoption shows the estimated average upfront cost, the yearly and five-year total cost of ownership (TCO) depending on the EHR’s deployment model: in-office or cloud-based. The ONC claims that overall costs for electronic health records can vary from $15,000 to $70,000, which is quite a broad range. A more exact number depends on the platform type, the healthcare provider’s existing IT resources, additional personnel training, and other factors. For example, if an organization requires a custom-made system, the upfront costs will be higher than for an out-of-the-box solution, yet it may yield higher ROI faster.

Chart title: Average cost of ownership for on-site and SaaS EHR deployment

Data source: — How much going cost me. FAQs

Custom EHR cost

Custom EHR cost

The medical field is so diverse that specific practices require a custom system satisfying their unique needs. General practitioners and hospitals can rely on out-of-the-box solutions, while for pediatricians, surgeons, mental health facilities, hospices, and other organizations with a more narrow focus, a custom EHR could be a better choice.

The average cost of EHR implementation varies depending on the provider. For our clients, it usually lies between $50,000 and $500,000, depending on the number of features and integrations.

Custom EHR cost

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EHR cost factors

There are five factors that any provider takes into consideration while calculating the overall costs of EHR software implementation.

Hardware and network

The healthcare organization will benefit from an EHR system only if it functions properly. Thus, having suitable modern hardware and infrastructure is crucial. An EHR vendor can advise the care provider if any changes are required before the implementation, including purchasing new computers/laptops, printers, or other devices, as well as upgrades to the network, OS, or applications.

Costs of popular EHR platforms

Healthcare providers prefer to know rough estimates for the EHR implementation costs depending on the platform before choosing one or two favorites and starting consultations, quote collecting, and unique price compilations. Aside from the upfront costs and hidden expenses, clients should consider the price for each system upgrade. Katalus’s research shows that Epic charges the most for system upgrades – up to 50% of the initial contract value.

Chart title: Varying EHR upgrade costs (as a % of initial contract value)

Data source: — The Total Cost of Ownership of Electronic Health Record Systems


Epic has different pricing plans based on the client company’s size and the number of system users. Unfortunately, this popular EHR provider doesn’t offer a trial version or a straightforward cost breakdown. According to Forbes’ investigation, a price for self-hosted solutions starts from $1,200, while clinics and hospitals might expect to pay $500,000 on average. In addition, the training fees are about $2,000 per organization and other expenses can add from $200 to $35,000 to a monthly bill.

Types of EHR costs

The EHR cost breakdown can be divided into four categories that should be considered separately for the most realistic budget strategy.

Direct expenses

  • Hardware upgrades
  • Software license or subscription
  • Implementation costs

Hidden costs

  • Customization costs
  • Network updates
  • Data migration fee

Unexpected expenses

  • Extra storage
  • Lower initial productivity
  • System downtime losses

Staff-related costs

  • Personnel training
  • New staff hire
  • Overtime payments

How to keep EHR implementation costs down

Despite multiple EHR benefits and evidence that its implementation costs are usually covered within two to three years of usage, healthcare providers keep listing insufficient EHR adoption budgets as one of their biggest digitalization challenges. Here are some tips for reducing EHR implementation costs from our experts.

Consider installing an open-source EHR

The open-source system might not have a shiny interface, but it can provide your practice with all of the basic features at a low cost or even for free. In case your organization doesn’t have IT specialists to implement an open-source solution, or you need a few add-ons or integrations, it might be cheaper to hire a developer rather than choose a proprietary EHR.

Opt only for necessary features and integrations

Perform a deep business and market analysis before shopping for an EHR system to determine the functionality your healthcare organization needs most. If you are on a tight budget, cut all of the “nice-to-have” features and skip any integrations that are not vital for your daily workflows. Consider the difference between EHR and EMR systems and choose the one that most suits your case.

Choose a subscription-based payment model

While platforms with annual subscription payments may add up to a higher total cost of ownership, such a model can help if the upfront cost is the problem for your organization. Besides, you can opt-out or change your service plan as you go, which gives your budget more flexibility and room to adapt to unexpected events.

Never skimp on security

Medical data safety should not be sacrificed to cut the implementation budget. Data breaches in healthcare cost more than in any other industry and happen frequently. Purchasing a cheaper system with weak security might cost you ten times more than a more expensive but reliable solution.

Partner with an experienced EHR developer

Software companies with various successful EHR implementation cases can help you optimize costs in areas that you haven’t even considered. Additionally, an experienced team will carry out the implementation cycle faster than professionals who are new to the field, reducing the overall project cost and enabling you to start reaping the system’s benefits sooner.

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EHR implementation benefits

The return on investment for EHRs is tricky to calculate, as it includes both hard ROI (quantifiable metrics like an increase in patient flow) and soft ROI (metrics that are not easily measured, like the enhancement of medical care).

Let’s find out what healthcare companies gain by implementing EHR software, and see how it measures up to what they spend.

Satisfied personnel

Satisfied personnel

 While some physicians complain that EHRs lead to burnout, these claims are true for cases when the system is not tuned to the actual needs of a particular organization. On the contrary, a research group from the Medical University of South Carolina found out that providers’ satisfaction rates grow after the implementation of an efficient system.

Scheme title: Positive association between provider efficiency and satisfaction

Data source: — Physician Use of Electronic Health Records: Survey Study Assessing Factors Associated With Provider Reported Satisfaction and Perceived Patient Impact

Setting the budget for EHR implementation

The time when healthcare practitioners refused EHRs because of their cost has gone. There are plenty of solutions that cover solo physicians’ basic needs at a low cost, while a large hospital can choose highly customized software that costs more but brings special benefits. Though ROI for EHR can be challenging to calculate, it’s possible to create an accurate budget by taking into account your organization’s size and business model.

The main rule is to clearly see your organization’s goals and understand direct, indirect, hidden, and staff-related expenses for different software options that match this goal. We believe that no care provider should dread budgeting for their software. Our team is ready to guide you through the entire process: from defining the goals and estimating expenses to choosing and implementing the most fitting EHR.

FAQ about EHR costs

In addition to the detailed implementation cost breakdown, we will briefly cover other questions care providers might have in this section. For more information, don’t hesitate to contact our team.

What may increase the price of EHR implementation?

Do providers charge patients for EHR?

How much does EMR cost?