New regulations put in place last month already have resulted in a surge of interest in electronic health record systems, according to an article published by Forbes/Associated Press. Since the estimated $20,000 cost per physician for software and hardware is prohibitive to most physicians, hospitals now can donate medical record systems to practices. And, the industry has come to an agreement on technology standards that allow software from different companies to share data. Knowing that vendors’ systems won’t get shut out due to interoperability problems helps physicians be less fearful of making the investment.
Annual sales of records software are expected to more than triple to $4.9 billion by 2010, said Jewson Enterprises, an Austin, Texas-based research firm, according to the article. Several of the largest EHR vendors already have seen an increase in sales, especially to physician practices.
The regulation changes do include several conditions, such as one that requires that donated computer systems must be able to interoperate with other health care computer systems around the country — a protection against hospitals using their donations to deter competition. And, doctors still must pay at least 15 percent of the system's cost and donations are limited to software or such things as maintenance costs or Internet fees. Donations of hardware, other types of software or personnel to run the systems are not allowed.