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New electronic health records demonstration project 'encouraging step' says ACP

(Washington) The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) new electronic health records demonstration project is an encouraging step in the right direction, David C. Dale, MD, FACP, president of the American College of Physicians (ACP), said today.

Dr. Dales reaction came in response to Tuesdays announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services that CMS will be conducting a five-year demonstration project to provide financial incentives to encourage small and medium-sized medical practices to use certified electronic health records (EHRs).

This program marks a significant and positive change to the administrations previous stance on EHRs, continued Dr. Dale. It is appropriately acknowledging that market-forces alone will not be enough for physicians to afford new office systems.

According to "The Value of Electronic Health Records in Solo or Small Group Practices," an article in the Sept./Oct. 2005 issue of Health Affairs magazine, the acquisition cost for an EHR system averages $44,000 per physician. The initial cost, combined with the ongoing average annual cost of $8,500 per physician to maintain the system, often puts these systems out of the reach of small physician practices.

For physicians in small and medium-sized practices the cost of an EHR systemnot just the dollars spent on the hardware and software, but the time lost on training and conversion to a new systemmakes implementing these systems a financial impossibility for their offices, noted Dr. Dale.

ACP has long supported other initiatives to provide financial incentives to encourage the adoption of EHRs and other health information technology, including the National Health Information Incentive Act of 2007 (H.R. 1952), which was introduced by Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-TX) and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) last spring. H.R. 1952, which is based in large part on ideas developed by ACP, was designed to facilitate the adoption of health information technology (HIT) to support quality improvement activities by:

  • developing and adopting national standards; and
  • providing initial financial support and ongoing reimbursement incentives for physicians in smaller practices.

Increased use of HIT could greatly benefit health care in the U.S. through improved patient care, reduction in medical errors, higher efficiency, and potential long-run cost savings, concluded Dr. Dale. However, in order for patients to see any of these benefits we need to ensure that their physicians are able to acquire these important technologies.


Contact: David Kinsman
American College of Physicians

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