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Electronic health record incentive programs analyzed by researchers

Lana Bandoim's picture
Electronic health record incentive program

A new study analyzes electronic health record incentive programs and physician participation. Researchers discovered that the financial rewards are working, and more doctors are switching to electronic health records. However, they are concerned that a digital divide is forming between physicians who have accepted electronic health record (EHR) adoption, and physicians who have not made the change.


The study from Weill Cornell Medical College reveals that the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs cost $30 billion and are being run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The programs include incentive payments for medical offices and hospitals that adopt and implement electronic health records. The study focused on 26,368 physicians in New York and analyzed their use of EHR.

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Electronic health records are essentially digital versions of the traditional patient charts that once filled shelves in a physician’s office. However, EHRs are designed to go beyond the conventional charts by providing a more detailed report for each patient with easier access to information and tools. The data is easier to share and track in a digital format. In addition, electronic health records can be customized for each patient. For example, mental health systems can benefit from EHRs that are HIPAA compliant and designed for the behavioral health industry.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College found that the physicians in their study were influenced by the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and were more likely to switch to EHRs because of the payments. However, researchers are concerned about physicians and hospitals that are struggling with the switch and believe that a digital divide is being created. This divide has the potential to hurt patient care because physicians who still rely on paper charts will find that sharing data will be a challenge in a digital world.

“As a society, we may be closer than we think to a golden era when science, intelligence and insights from big data can become a natural, unforced part of healthcare. Two qualities are important to enable this type of transformation. Health IT platforms must be open, and they must be interoperable,” Neal Patterson said.