Senate Bill Would Help Family Doctors Fund EHRs

The bill, introduced by Sen. John Kerry, would make small healthcare practices eligible for federal loans.
Senator John Kerry introduced a bill designed to help family doctors fund conversion to electronic health records.

Kerry, D-Mass., a senior member of the Finance Committee, introduced the Small Business Health Information Technology Financing Act of 2009 Tuesday. It would make family doctors and other small medical practices eligible for Small Business Administration loans to cover the cost of health information technology to create electronic health records and prescriptions.

"Electronic medical records and prescriptions are the common sense solution to restricting costs, reducing errors, and reforming a broken system. Doctors don't need convincing -- they've seen the results," Kerry said in a statement. "This legislation helps small practices acquire the technology that will allow them to be more efficient and to focus on patient care."

Loans would cover the cost of hardware, software, and other technology, Kerry's office said.

A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in June by Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Pa.

Kerry introduced the Medicare Electronic Medication and Safety Protection (E-MEDS) Act of 2007 to require physicians to use e-prescriptions. The provision passed into law last year as part of the Medicare bill.

Currently, one-third of written prescriptions require follow-up clarification, and medication mistakes cause 7,000 deaths and 1.5 million injuries per year, according to Kerry's office, citing a study from the Institute of Medicine.

EHRs are a major component of U.S. health and economic policy; the U.S. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 set aside $20 billion in February to convert American healthcare practices to e-health records.

Blue Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania, the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and a range of large and small healthcare providers are using mobile apps to improve care and help patients manage their health. Find out how. Download the report here (registration required).

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