South Dakota's eHealth Collaborative is seeking applications for a national electronic medical records project announced in June by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt. South Dakota is one of just four sites in the nation chosen for the immediate phase of the demonstration project, which will offer financial incentives to physician practices to implement electronic health records for patients. An additional eight sites will be implemented later in 2009.

The goal of the five-year demonstration project is to encourage primary care physician practices to use electronic health records (EHR) to improve the quality of patient care. Participating practices will receive financial incentives for using certified EHRs to improve quality as measured by their performance on specific clinical quality measures. Additional bonus payments will be available, based on a standardized survey measuring the number of EHR functionalities a physician practice has incorporated.

South Dakota's project is working to recruit physicians in small or medium-sized clinics, particularly in rural areas, with 20 or fewer physicians and at least 50 Medicare fee for service beneficiaries for which they provide primary care services. To be eligible, the practices must be primary care, internal medicine, family practice, general practice or gerontology.

Beginning September 2, interested physician practices can request application packets at the South Dakota eHealth Collaborative Web site. Completed applications are due November 26 and successful applicants will be notified in March 2009. Demonstration projects will begin June 1, 2009.

South Dakota's application was submitted by the eHealth Collaborative whose members include health systems, insurers, health care industry organizations and state government. The state's Zaniya Health Care Task Force identified using health information technology to promote quality and efficiency as one of 16 key recommendations for improving insurance coverage in South Dakota.