Setting up an electronic health record system costs $40,000 per doctor, and one group medical practice that has an EHR system is paying $60,000 per year for technical support.

Dr. David Richard Baron, chief executive of Greenhouse Internists P.C., Philadelphia, the group practice with the EHR system, gave those cost estimates at a recent teleconference held to announce the results of an EHR study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by a team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

The team, led by Dr. David Blumenthal, looked at adoption of EHR systems and related health information technology.

Only 17% of the physicians surveyed have implemented EHR systems, the researchers found.

About 42% of the physicians who do not use an EHR system said they either had bought a system and had not implemented it yet or were planning to buy one in the next 2 years.

The cost of EHR systems and the difficulty of finding an EHR system that suits a physician’s practice are the main reasons that physicians gave for being hesitant to adopt EHR systems, according to Catherine DesRoches, a researcher at Massachusetts General.

The researchers and other speakers noted that widespread adoption of EHR technology could reduce insurers’ administrative costs.

“It is in [insurers'] best interest to support the acquisition of EHR,” Baron said.

“New financing strategies are desperately needed,” Baron added.

Grants, low-interest loans, pay-for-performance reimbursement programs and legal protection against patient record tampering are some of the incentives that could help overcome physicians’ concerns about EHR system costs, the researchers said.