Federal Officials Face Challenges in Selling Value of EHR Systems


National Coordinator for Health IT David Blumenthal has said his office will face numerous challenges in persuading health care providers to transition to electronic health record systems, Kaiser Health News reports.

Although health IT systems could increase efficiency, reduce medical errors and lower health care costs, some physicians are uncertain whether EHR installation is worth its price.

For example, the average three-physician practice could pay as much as $300,000 on EHR software, employee training and software upgrades over two years, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In addition, health care providers would need to purchase and implement the technology before they could receive a maximum of $44,000 per physician in Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments.

Furthermore, although EHR systems could reduce health spending by preventing duplicate tests, medication errors and hospitalizations, the savings likely would go to health plans, policyholders and taxpayers rather than physician practices.

Observers say these challenges could account for the current low rates of EHR adoption nationwide. As of 2008, only about 13% of physicians were using basic EHR systems, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

To boost these adoption rates, Blumenthal and other federal officials will need to demonstrate the value of health IT tools that improve efficiency and lower health providers' costs, KHN reports (Weaver, Kaiser Health News, 7/17).

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