Electronic Medical Records Law
Paper-based records are still by far the most common method of recording patient information for most hospitals and practices in the U.S. The majority of doctors still find their ease of data entry and low cost hard to part with. However, as easy as they are for the doctor to record medical data at the point of care, they require a significant amount of storage space compared to digital records. In the US, most states require physical records be held for a minimum of seven years. The costs of storage media, such as paper and film, per unit of information differ dramatically from that of electronic storage media. When paper records are stored in different locations, collating them to a single location for review by a health care provider is time consuming and complicated, whereas the process can be simplified with electronic records. This is particularly true in the case of person-centered records, which are impractical to maintain if not electronic (thus difficult to centralise or federate). When paper-based records are required in multiple locations, copying, faxing, and transporting costs are significant compared to duplication and transfer of digital records. Because of these many "after entry" benefits, federal and state governments, insurance companies and other large medical institutions are heavily promoting the adoption of electronic medical records. Congress included a formula of both incentives (up to $44K per physician under Medicare or up to $65K over 6 years, under Medicaid) and penalties (i.e. decreased Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements for covered patients to doctors who fail to use EMR's by 2015) for EMR/EHR adoption versus continued use of paper records as part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
One study estimates electronic medical records improve overall efficiency by 6% per year, and the monthly cost of an EMR may (depending on the cost of the EMR) be offset by the cost of only a few "unnecessary" tests or admissions. Jerome Groopman disputed these results, publicly asking "how such dramatic claims of cost-saving and quality improvement could be true".