State and local government health organizations hoping to benefit from the federal stimulus funds will have to plan health information technology (HIT) implementations carefully to get the greatest benefits from the funds.

While most agree that electronic health records (EHRs) can improve care, reduce medical errors and reduce health-care costs, adoption has stalled in recent years because the investment required is steep and the financial return isn't as clear-cut as other investments.

"Even if it makes you more efficient, it's a tall hill to climb when you compare it against the competing opportunities for investing and adopting technology that are well reimbursed," said Mark Leavitt, chair of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT), a nonprofit aimed at accelerating interoperable HIT adoption by creating a HIT certification process.

Providers are faced with investment possibilities that allow physicians and hospitals to charge for each use or procedure associated with that investment, he said. For example, if a hospital invests in a CT scanner, it will charge patients or insurance providers every time it's used.

"So obviously, if you're a doctor or a hospital, where are you going to invest your spare capital, where you get reimbursed or where you get nothing?"


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