Stimulus Funds Spur Indiana Doctors, Hospitals To Switch To Electronic Records More Quickly

The offer of federal stimulus funds is spurring Indiana health care providers to convert to electronic medical records, The (Fort Wayne, Ind.) Journal Gazette reports.

"Parkview Health and Lutheran Health Network have shortened timelines on scheduled conversions to electronic medical records because of the expected federal rebate. And local companies that develop and sell the technology are speeding up growth, hiring software engineers to create products and sales staff to peddle them." The stimulus bill, with a provision offering $19.5 billion for conversion to electronic medical records, passed Congress in February 2009, "[b]ut it wasn't until Dec. 30 that the Obama administration released criteria for determining which electronic records systems will qualify physicians for $44,000 to $64,000 in incentive payments made over five years. Area health care providers – and the companies that sell computer software to the industry – say the stimulus isn't changing their business plans. They already saw the need and opportunity electronic medical records present. The money is simply allowing them to pursue the conversion from paper to computer more quickly than planned" (Slater, 3/14).

In a separate article, The Journal Gazette reports on how electronic medical records could change the doctor-patient relationship. "[P]atients won't have to start appointments struggling to recall their complete medical histories. Their primary-care doctors would have already shared the chart before the scheduled appointment. Patients will probably also save time and money by avoiding repeated tests ordered by different doctors." But "Dr. Yogesh Amin, an internist, wonders how electronic medical records technology will become part of his daily life. If a doctor keeps his eyes glued to a computer screen and keyboard, he could alienate the patient. The patient could feel the doctor isn't paying enough attention or isn't connecting in a personal way, Amin said. But if the doctor writes in the chart during the visit and dictates notes afterward – as Amin does now – it takes a lot more time" (Slater, 3/14).

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