U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt last week proposed a $150 million incentives plan to expand physicians' use of EMRs, during a Des Moines University address.
Electronic records are vital to improving patient care, cutting medical costs and reducing errors and yet only 15 percent of physicians at small practices have access to EMRs, Leavitt said. He envisions a system that eventually allows patients to go online and research a physician's track record and costs, he added.
"Consumers need to not only have access to their record, but they need to have access to the quality of the care they're receiving and also the price of the care they're receiving," he said.
Leavitt said a dozen communities across the United States can apply to be in the pilot program, although physicians would have to pay for the technology on their own.
Upfront costs for implementing such computer systems can range from $20,000 to $40,000 but creating incentives for doctors to implement the technology would help offset costs, Leavitt said.