N.Y. launches statewide drive to spur e-health adoption by doctors

NEW YORK —In the latest attempt to kick-start the health information technology revolution, the Empire State last month launched a drive to help physicians deploy electronic health records and shift to paperless prescribing. The statewide initiative is aimed at boosting EHR adoption by primary care providers. To that end, two regional extension centers, the New York eHealth Collaborative and the NYC Regional Electronic Adoption Center for Health, or NYC REACH, will disburse $48.2 million in federal stimulus funds as incentives to encourage those physicians to shift their practices to digital record-keeping and electronic data interchange of those records.

“Providers now can get help qualifying for federal stimulus funds of up to $63,750, as well as step-by-step technical expertise to implement electronic health records in their practices,” said Karen Riley, a spokeswoman for the two organizations.

“Our goal is to help approximately 10,000 primary care providers in… New York adopt EHRs within two years to enhance patient care and the efficiency of their practices,” said David Whitlinger, executive director of the eHealth Collaborative. “The federal subsidies supporting adoption of EHRs will be available only for a couple of years, so it’s important for primary care providers in New York to act now to take advantage of these programs while there are still funds available.”

To launch the campaign, the eHealth Collaborative and NYC REACH held seminars throughout the state in recent weeks to educate primary care providers on how to qualify for federal stimulus funds and implement EHRs.

“With one of the nation’s largest healthcare systems, New York State is leading the way for the adoption of electronic health records,” said Amanda Parsons, assistant commissioner of the Primary Care Information Project at the New York City Health Department.

Nevertheless, the shift to digital records is still in its relative infancy in New York and elsewhere, and the health system remains a “paper jungle,” Riley noted. Although “electronic health record adoption is picking up rapidly, with an estimated 27% of physicians using some kind of EHR,” she said, “the vast majority of medical records in the U.S. are still on paper, with the average appointment taking 13 pages to document.”

Riley cited a new study from GfK Roper, which estimated that the average U.S. patient’s health is documented on at least 200 pieces of paper in about 19 different locations. “Additionally,” she noted, “American patients have seen an average of 18.7 different doctors during their lives.”

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