State will pay physicians to use records

By OLYMPIA MEOLA
http://www.inrich.com

Virginia will participate in a project that provides incentive money to doctors to use electronic health records, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt announced yesterday in Richmond.

The national effort is aimed at improving patients’ quality of care and reducing medical errors.

“Building and improving the health information technology infrastructure in our commonwealth and in our country is critical to providing quality health care moving forward,” Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said during a news conference with Leavitt at the Patrick Henry Building.

The financial incentives, available to 100 small and medium-sized physician practices in Virginia, will come in the form of increased Medicare payments. Physicians will receive the incentive if they adopt the electronic medical records system, use it, and then report quality improvements in certain areas.

Physicians will be required to report on 26 different quality measures. Over the five-year program, a participating physician could receive up to $58,000 in incentives, or up to $290,000 per practice, according to Leavitt.

The program is expected to be cost neutral, according to HHS, because the payouts are supposed to be covered by the savings in expected efficiencies.

Among the improvements expected in switching to electronic health records is the rapid exchange of critical patient information and medication management information, said Dr. Ed Glynn of Village Medical Associates in Midlothian.

“I want to emphasize that the electronic health record is not merely the replacement of a paper chart. It is a much more robust tool than that,” he said.

“For the primary care clinician, the electronic health record will change the way we practice medicine more than any other tool in our lifetime.”

Contact Olympia Meola at (804) 649-6812 or omeola@timesdispatch.com.

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