Help for hospitals switching to electronic health records

    Tech chiefs worry that the government’s timetable is too ambitious.

    U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says there is new money available for electronic health record systems. Some of the grant money will establish regional training centers to help doctors and hospitals set up electronic health systems that can communicate easily and improve health care quality.

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    In coming years, providers could face penalties if they don’t make enough progress. In Pennsylvania, hospital executives and the head of the Governor’s Office of Health Care Reform were on the line Thursday when the secretary made the announcement.

    Frank Richards is chief information officer for the Geisinger Health System. He says the government wants doctors and hospitals to demonstrate they are “meaningful users” of electronic health records.

    Richards: What they are really trying to get to is more than just installing hardware and software. They want physicians to be using electronic orders, e-prescribing that will go directly to the pharmacy. They want a system that will alert the doctor if there are problems.

    It looks like an awful amount of work in a short period of time. We are by far an early adopter out there and I know a lot of physicians are going to struggle.

    The Obama administration says there is $1.2 billion in grant money available.

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