Patient Records Encouraged to Go Electronic; Federal Government Is Offering Monetary Incentives to Switch

Article excerpt

Byline: Walter C. Jones

ATLANTA Physicians and hospitals across the state are pondering a $64,000 question about computerizing the records of their government-insured patients.

To encourage computerization, the federal government is offering incentives between $44,000 through Medicare and $64,000 through Medicaid.

So far, 55 percent of the state's physicians already took the plunge into electronic health records, or EHRs, according to those who participated in a March survey by the Medical Association of Georgia.

And the University System of Georgia is creating degree programs to turn out the legions of new professionals required to input and manage these records, called health informatics.

"Adoption and meaningful use of EHRs by all providers will be a big challenge, and states have an important role in helping to bring about that transition," said David Cook, Georgia's commissioner of community health.

The state Department of Community Health is more than a cheerleader. It's also using input from the providers on how to set up a secure network for exchanging the medical records in a usable form for the providers, pharmacies and claims administrators who'll eventually be using them while safeguarding the privacy of patients.

Many of the state's larger hospitals and physician groups have already made the switch for internal use. Community Health will provide additional payments and extra assistance to the smaller practices and hospitals. …