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IT Buyer’s Guide: Electronic Health Records

IT Buyer’s Guide: Electronic Health Records
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As the need for healthcare organizations to deploy Electronic Health products grows, so do the number of vendors trying to sell their wares to anxious customers. To help companies and healthcare IT choose, Tom's IT Pro will  take a close look at a number of these EMR (Electronic Medial Record)/EHR (Electronic Health Record) vendors and solutions in the coming months.

When Dr. Lawrence Weed, a researcher at the University of Vermont Medical School, launched the PROMIS project in 1967, he essentially invented the electronic health/medical record (EHR/EMR) field. While the traditional health chart system had served well for many decades, EHRs offered clear potential advantages, including elimination of legibility issues, easier access to patient data across multiple healthcare locations, and greatly reduced total cost of storage for the seven years required by most U.S. states.

The EHR system is far from perfect.

Many doctors resist the loads of extraneous data entry required by many systems and, in the absence of thorough security, it’s potentially as easy to steal 10,000 patient records as it is one. This is a large part of why paper records continue to be used throughout the medical industry, even with many hospitals switching to EHRs in the ‘80s and a large percentage of outpatient clinics making the shift from the late ‘90s onward.

One of the key motivations to adopt EHR systems continues to be Congress’s Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which falls under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. With HITECH, physicians who use EHR technology in a “meaningful” manner (see the HRSA for definitions of meaningful) qualify for tens of thousands of dollars in incentives through the Medicare or Medicaid systems. However, those who don’t adopt EHR by 2015 will face penalties in the form of decreased reimbursements from those systems.

William Van Winkle has been a full-time tech writer and author since 1998. He specializes in a wide range of coverage areas, including unified communications, virtualization, Cloud Computing, storage solutions and more. William lives in Hillsboro, Oregon with his wife and 2.4 kids, and—when not scrambling to meet article deadlines—he enjoys reading, travel, and writing fiction.

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(Shutterstock image credit: EMR/EHR and Medical Records)