Electronic Health Records: A Focus For Big Tech Companies

"On one proposal for health care reform at least, there is a rare bipartisan consensus: the push to computerize patient records," The New York Times reports. The federal recovery package sets aside $19 billion "to encourage doctors and hospitals to install and use electronic health records. So even as the Obama administration and Congress struggle with broad health policy legislation, the technology industry is pursuing the opportunity in digital health records as never before." The money will not be available until next year, but General Electric, I.B.M. and Verizon are all "hoping to get their share."

"On Thursday, Dell, the personal computer maker, plans to join the scramble in earnest, announcing its plan to form a partnership with hospital groups around the country to offer electronic health records — hardware, software, consulting services and financing — to their affiliated physicians. Dell, like the other players, sees the big opportunity as being in offices with 10 doctors or fewer, where three-fourths of the nation’s physicians practice medicine." Proponents of the technology say that electronic health records "when thoughtfully set up and deployed, are a modern tool to improve care and help curb costs," but "doctors in small offices have not moved to digital records, mainly because today’s technology is costly and complex." While technological improvements are being made, "technical assistance and user guidance are also needed." There may be hurdles. "The risk is that physicians buy lots of computer hardware and software, but see no improvements, leaving a legacy of wasted money, angry doctors and disrupted care for patients" (Lohr, 9/10).

The Plain Dealer reports that Ohio is moving forward with plans for electronic medical record technology. Gov. Ted Strickland "has chosen a non-profit group to lead efforts to develop a network that for the first time will allow doctors anywhere in the state to access medical information online about patients anywhere in the state" (Livingston, 9/9).

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