News: Driving forward the use of electronic and patient health records

May 1, 2008

The government, nonprofit hospitals, insurers, and technology companies have been striving to get doctors and patients to embrace electronic and personal health records.

The government, nonprofit hospitals, insurers, and technology companies have been striving to get doctors and patients to embrace electronic and personal health records. With the promise that this technology could increase efficiency, reduce costs, empower patients, and promote the standardization of care, several experts agree that electronic health records (EHRs) and personal health records (PHRs) are the wave of the future.

Getting physicians to adopt this new technology has been slow, however. One study of surveys on EHR adoption found that about 24% of physicians used EHRs and just 5% of hospitals used computerized physician order entry, reported a Medical News & Perspectives article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2/6/2008). Why the hesitancy? Physicians reportedly lack adequate funding to implement the systems, resources to manage the transition from paper to electronic documentation and storage, and confidence that the systems will maintain patient confidentiality.

To help encourage physicians to adopt EHRs, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will start a pilot program this spring, which would offer higher reimbursement payments to those who adopt EHRs. Extra payments would be made during the pilot's first year to those practices that used an approved EHR and, within the program, practices that perform better than others on specific quality measures will receive larger bonuses.