Pittsburgh is one of 12 regions in the country chosen to pilot a five-year Medicare program by the Department of Health and Human Services that gives incentives for physicians to initiate electronic health records.
Secretary Leavitt says 100 practices in Western Pennsylvania with between three and ten doctors will participate because that is the size practice least likely to have invested in electronic record technology--it is expensive. He says each physician might get up to $56,000 and each practice up to $295,000 over five years, but even that might not be enough, so local collaborators, like private insurance companies, are being asked to help. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield will give $29 million in grants to local physicians.
The Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative will be the federal government's local partner in carrying out the program. In addition to the 100 practices selected for incentives, there will be another 100 used as a control group.
85% of medical records in the U.S. are still paper, though electronic health records reduce errors and increase efficiency and quality.