CMS Includes Oklahoma in Electronic Health Records Program

Article excerpt

Federal and state government health officials said on Monday Oklahoma was one of 12 states selected for a Medicare electronic health records demonstration project that will reimburse doctors up to $58,000 and practices up to $290,000 for switching over to an electronic system.

As many as 1,200 doctors and primary care practices in the U.S. will be eligible for Medicare incentives if they choose to participate in the program.

Four of the states will begin the program this year. Oklahoma is in the second tier and is expected to begin in fall 2009.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Director Kerry Weems and Oklahoma Health Secretary Michael Crutcher made the announcement at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Russell Kohl, who has a family practice in Vinita, said electronic health records are worth the investment.

"When I started my practice, I invested over $70,000 in electronic medical records," he said. "When I started there were no financial rewards other than the efficiency of the office and quality of care."

Kohl said he's estimated that paper charts cost $4 over time. "Those add up. Having electronic records allows me to see that I'm doing a better job," he said. "Without them, I'd normally be using 3x5 cards or trying to keep Excel spreadsheets."

Efficiency and fewer mistakes is the goal of the program. Weems said the program will reduce errors and improve health outcomes for 3.6 million Americans.

Melissa Johnson, director of health care policy for the Oklahoma State Medical Association, and Craig Jones, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said the payoff in electronic health records doesn't come in the form of money, but instead, comes in the form of accuracy and performance. …