The White House and Congress believe innovations in electronic medical records (EMRs) and the secure exchange of medical information will transform health care in America by improving patient safety and health care quality, reducing costs and paperwork, and increasing access to affordable care. The president set a goal in 2004 of assuring that most Americans have electronic health records (EHRs) by 2014 and created the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (HIT). Physicians support the president's goal but have deep concerns about how patient privacy will be safeguarded as more and more data are shared electronically.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-San Antonio) has filed HR 1952 to provide incentives for physicians to acquire HIT. It would authorize the federal government to provide funding to help them acquire interoperable EMRs and point-of-care systems to guide treatment decisions. It also would provide incentives to physicians who use HIT to improve care.
To boost EMR adoptions, in 2006 the Stark regulations were relaxed allowing hospitals to donate EMR systems to physicians. This exception expires on Dec. 31, 2013. Health care payment plans are also taking a keen interest in accelerating EMR adoption. One plan in Boston now requires all physicians to adopt an EMR to remain in network.
Medicine's 2009 Agenda
- The Texas Medical Association supports development of federal grant and loan programs to help physicians purchase and implement HIT. Health plans and government health programs should adopt policy initiatives that accelerate market forces and provide physicians with incentives to invest in HIT.
- Health plans, Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care purchasers should include in their reimbursement systems provisions that reflect physicians' HIT practice expenses for developing EMR infrastructure and related business operations.
- TMA supports the development of patient-owned, electronic personal health records.
- Electronic medical records improve the quality of care, enhance patient safety, streamline physician office operations, and reduce redundant services. These systems are extremely expensive, however, and physicians won't be able to implement them if they must bear the cost burden of the new technology alone.
- A 2005 study found that a well-designed system linking patient records among physicians, hospitals, health plans, and others "could yield $77.8 billion annually, [about] 5 percent of the projected $1.661 trillion spent on U.S. health care in 2003."
- Physicians must be the guardians of patient information and protect their patients' privacy interests and concerns.
- The American Medical Association encourages standards for HIT that allow software companies to develop competitive systems that can share data. AMA will evaluate initiatives for creating an HIT infrastructure based on cost to office-based physicians, security of electronic records, and standardization of electronic systems.
2009 Federal Legislative Issue Briefs
U.S. Congressional main page