NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 21, 2009

One of President Barack Obama's top priorities is the implementation of a national electronic health records system (EHR) for streamlining workflow, cutting costs and improving the quality of health care.  While he has pledged to invest $10 billion a year over the next five years, the price tag will be closer to $100 billion over the next ten years, say experts.

Full EHR systems include patient care order-entry systems and networks to share patient data between hospitals, primary care physicians and insurance companies, and to fill pharmacy prescriptions.  However, only 25 to 35 percent of the nation's 5,000 hospitals use computerized order entry and medical record systems.  Yet, the nation stands to save between $200 billion and $300 billion a year once an EHR system is in place. 

The idea is to create a more efficient workflow:

  • To date, there are 66 Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs) -- which bring together health care organization in a defined area and control the exchange of information -- in the United States, many of which are now planning EHRs.
  • Massachusetts is one of 30 states that have introduced or passed legislation calling for the statewide adoption of standardized health IT systems; the Commonwealth wants 14,000 private physicians' offices to adopt EHR systems by 2012, and its 63 hospitals, by 2014.
  • Currently, a beta RHIO, SafeHealth, is in place in three geographic locations, and was paid for in part by a $1.5 million state grant.

However, the biggest obstacle to implementing EHRs is money.  Getting physicians and hospitals to spend money on EHR systems is difficult.  What's needed is money for recordkeeping technology that doctors and nurses often do not have as well as provide point-of-service technologies, such as notebook tablets for convenient data entry into those her systems, say observers.

Source: Lucas Mearian, "Obama's national health records system will be costly, daunting," Computerworld, January 20, 2009.


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