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Officials tout health provider embrace of health IT

Federal officials say four-fifths of the nation's hospitals and 41 percent of private practice doctors are planning to take advantage of government incentives to switch to using electronic health records as the funding becomes available for the first time.

David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, touted the numbers Thursday as he urged organizations to achieve "meaningful use" of certified electronic health records. To meet the federal government's meaningful use standard health providers must meet certain benchmarks such as electronic prescribing and entry of basic data about patients.

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, eligible hospitals may now receive millions of dollars to help implement new IT programs while individual practitioners may receive thousands of dollars in support.

"For years we have known that electronic health records would improve care for patients and bring about greater cost effectiveness in our health sector, yet adoption rates by health care providers remained low," Blumenthal said. "In 2009, Congress and the president authorized major new federal support for EHR adoption and use, and in combination with medical professional and hospital leadership. I believe we are seeing the tide turn toward widespread and accelerating adoption and use of health IT."

The American Hospital Association conducted the survey on hospitals, while the Center for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics conducted the survey of office-based physicians.

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