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The slow move from paper to pixels

The website Politico reports that the move to electronic medical record-keeping has been progressing very slowly:

Electronic health records are at the center of some of the key reforms of the Affordable Care Act, because having reliable data to track patients, trends and possible fraud is one of the ways reformers think they will eventually be able to bend the cost curve.

But so far, only a scant number of providers are fully using the technology — and even fewer use it so as to qualify for federal incentive payments.

Through mid-May, just 1,026 registered hospitals and physicians out of a possible 56,599 have shown they use electronic records and other digital technology to meet federal “meaningful use” standards, and only 861 of them have actually received payment for doing so, according to data collected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and obtained by POLITICO.

The stunningly low numbers reflect a variety of factors. The Medicare and Medicaid electronic records program is relatively new, with the first payments going out a few weeks ago. And providers have had only two weeks to show CMS they are meeting the payment requirements. Finally, the low percentage of users reflects a rush into a technology that may not be readily available to all.

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