The Minnesota Department of Health today announced it has approved the first two loans under a new $6.3 million Electronic Health Record Revolving Account and Loan Program. The program was signed into law by Governor Pawlenty in 2007.

Swift County-Benson Hospital, Benson, and Mille Lacs Health System, Onamia, will borrow a total of $2,345,045 under the program to implement electronic health records in their community. Additional loan requests are currently under review.

The loan program provides six-year, no-interest loans up to $1.5 million on a first-come, first-served basis to help Minnesota's rural hospitals, small town physician clinics, nursing homes, and other community health care providers replace their paper records with powerful interoperable electronic health record systems. With these systems in place, health care providers can electronically and securely exchange patients' records and quickly access the information they need to make appropriate and safe treatment decisions.

Funding for the program is part of the state's e-Health Initiative, which is a broad set of strategies using health information technology to improve the quality and efficiency of health care. The package also includes the $7 million Interconnected Electronic Health Records Grants program.

Minnesota law requires all Minnesota health care providers to use electronic patient health records by January 1, 2015, so they can exchange patient health information and deliver optimal care at all points of the health care system. 'The adoption of electronic health records lays a foundation for building the health care system of the future that we need now,' said Dr. Sanne Magnan, Minnesota Commissioner of Health.