Maryland is poised to jump ahead of the rest of the nation in health information technology on Tuesday when Gov. Martin O'Malley signs a bill intended to coax doctors into using electronic medical records.
According to an article in the Baltimore Sun, Maryland will become the first state requiring private insurance companies to offer doctors financial incentives to adopt Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology, state officials say. Doctors who do not bring an electronic medical records system on line by 2015 could face penalties.
The law wil require private insurers to encourage health providers to use EHR. Maryland insurers will have to offer some sort of monetary award to providers who use an EHR by 2011. Those providers not using an EHR by 2015 will face penalties. The bill also paved the way for the creation of a statewide health information exchange.
The financial incentive for healthcare providers to use EHRs is needed in some cases because the cost of implementing an EHR can be thousands of dollars. Some smaller practices cannot afford this and thus far have chosen not to move to an electronic system.
The bill also requires the state to develop a health information exchange, a computer network that would link all of Maryland's physicians, hospitals, medical laboratories and pharmacies. It could be linked in turn with those of other states to create the national network envisioned by President George W. Bush and affirmed by President Barack Obama.