Consumer, government expectations could push health IT

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Adoption of electronic health records (EHR) could get a push as hospitals and insurers face pressure from consumers, companies, and the government to adopt the technology, The Economist reports. The Gartner Group research firm is predicting that health IT expenditures will go up as much as 4.7 percent from 2005 to 2010.

As for the federal government regulators, they have been keeping a keen eye on the Veterans Health Administration’s use of EHRs, which thus far have been shown to bring down patient errors and improve care overall. This is despite many financial hurdles that many healthcare facilities and providers are finding when they consider implementing the technology.

Meanwhile, some companies see EHRs as a way to cut costs by ramping up efficiency. For instance, Verizon recently implemented a new program that provides company employees with secure access online to their medical and prescription history via a personal health record which can be shared with healthcare providers. The program is being first offered to nearly 40,000 Verizon employees currently through tools that are provided by health IT vendor WebMD.

As for consumers, some companies such as the recently formed Continua Health Alliance, are targeting the market with health IT consumer tools in order to ease payment processes and provide other valuable healthcare-centric data in an automated fashion.