6 Simple Steps to Calculate the Cost of EHR Downtime

It’s not necessarily a mystery as to why practices shy away from evaluating the costs of EHR downtime, both monetary and intangible costs. These numbers can be convoluted and difficult to valuate; conducting research to pin point these costs would only attribute to the overall cost of the system and diminish the ROI. With an industry that is so diverse, there must be some compromise.

In the Mark Anderson article touched on in a previous blog post, there has already been some research done on various practices of differing sizes and specialties. The AC group conducted research in which an important message could be gleaned; downtime is virtually impossible to eliminate and the costs associated ($488 dollar per hour per provider) should be equally difficult to ignore.

A simplified calculation of EHR downtime costs based upon the formula presented from the table Anderson’s article is shown below:

  1. Compute the practice’s average annual salary costs (including benefits).
  2. Multiply that value by 2.15 (the calculated cost (in dollars)/minute of system unavailability).
  3. Divide by 2080 (average number of hours paid per staff member annually (52 weeks *40 hours per week)).
  4. Determine the amount of hours in which the system needs to be available to staff. *Note: Even though operational hours may only be 9AM-5PM, users may need access the system before and after this period.
  5. Multiply the value from step 4 by 52 (weeks/year) and again by (1% or the expected % of downtime given your server platform). The product of this equation represents the expected hours/year of downtime.
  6. Take the value from step 3 (which represents the cost of staff per hour) by the estimated downtime per year found in step 5. The final value is the estimated cost per year of unplanned EHR downtime.

Beyond the monetary costs of system downtime, there various affects that can be difficult to valuate but can be felt throughout an organization and patient population. When a system goes down and users are forced to switch to downtime procedures, there is a certain level of frustration and angst amongst the users. Patients may suffer from longer visit times, patient safety issues such as automated drug interaction notifications, and the luxuries of picking up their prescriptions at a nearby pharmacy. Providers depend on electronic health records when seeking patient information; with downtime the organization faces the risk of delayed care to patients and medical errors. 

In closing,  a recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review offered 3 strategies for delivering business continuity by preventing downtime:

  1. Adopt Resilient Technologies
  2. Practice Proactive Management
  3. Implement Best Practices

Galen Healthcare Solutions is proud to assist it’s clients and partners in realization and execution of the above strategies through it’s industry leading business continuity solution – VitalCenter.


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