News: Despite revised laws, few hospitals help physicians purchase EMRs

Feb 01, 2009

Although hospitals have permission to donate electronic medical records to physicans, few do.

Although recent regulatory changes permit hospitals to donate health information technology (IT), primarily electronic medical records (EMRs), to physicians, such projects are moving forward slowly, American Medical News (11/10/08) reported. Among 24 hospitals surveyed in 2007 by the Center for Health System Change, only seven were currently providing financial or other support to physicians to purchase EMRs. Four hospitals had begun implementing plans or had scheduled implementation, and the 17 remaining institutions were at different stages of planning and evaluation.

Many hospitals expected to provide some type of IT support to physicians, but only 11 of the 24 hospitals were considering subsidizing a portion of EMR costs. Hospitals may now subsidize up to 85% of the upfront and ongoing costs of EMR software and related support services for physicians under exceptions to the federal anti-self-referral law (the Stark law) and new safe harbors to the anti-kickback statute; both regulatory changes went into effect in October 2007. Physicians themselves must pick up the remaining 15% of costs. These new regulations are scheduled to sunset at the end of 2013, when physicians must assume any ongoing EMR costs.

Hospitals cited the burden of other IT projects, budget limitations, and lack of physician interest for their reluctance to take full advantage of the new regulations.