Physicians Offered Incentives to Switch to Electronic Record Keeping

Physicians receive government, corporate incentives to adopt electronic record keeping.In 2011, physicians will be eligible for extra payments from federal health insurance programs if they implement electronic medical record systems. The extra money is courtesy of President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus bill signed into law early last year.  To help physicians – especially those in small practices – pay for the several thousand dollar systems, private insurers are also offering financing incentives of their own.

UnitedHealth Group, for example, is offering interest-free loans to small practices that start using Ingenix CareTracker, an internet-based system.  Chicago-headquartered Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions, Inc., is offering a six-month, no-payment program for qualified buyers of its electronic healthcare records software.

Under the federal legislation, physicians who start using electronic medical records can receive more than $40,000 in Medicare payments over a five-year period.  At present, the Obama administration is soliciting comments on new regulations to “lay a foundation for improving quality, efficiency and safety through meaningful use of certified electronic health record technology.”  Although electronic records keeping will cut paperwork, control costs and create a more efficient system, physicians have been slow to adopt the technology because of the high cost of purchasing the equipment.

Even though 75 percent of Americans patronize doctors in small practices, less than 15 percent of physicians now use electronic records systems.  UnitedHealth, which says its CareTracker system can cost less than $7,000 annually, is “helping physicians overcome the challenge of funding their upfront investment – the biggest barrier in implementing health information technology,” said Bill Miller, executive vice president of Ingenix, the firm’s health information technology subsidiary.

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