Medical Records: Plans to Dollars for Digital Files

Medicare officials on Wednesday detailed plans to distribute billions of dollars to upgrade the nation’s paper medical records to electronic files. Under the proposal, doctors and hospitals that keep updated electronic medical records of their patients could receive bonus payments for using the software.

Officials for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stressed in a conference call that the proposal was preliminary and would not be completed until spring. The proposal was posted to the agency’s Web site.

“Widespread adoption of electronic health records holds great promise for improving health care quality, efficiency, and patient safety,” said David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology.

Under the proposed rule, health care professionals who use electronic records for 80 percent of their medical instructions could receive bonus payments. They also would have to provide patients with printouts of their medical history and use computers to check for potential drug interactions. Hospitals would have to complete 10 percent of their orders electronically.

The agency will take comments on the proposal for 60 days before beginning work on final guidelines. It separately laid out technology standards that medical software should meet.

Using electronic records could reduce costly medical errors and duplicate testing, according to Obama administration officials.

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