Potential of secure Maryland healthcare system is ?enticing? despite obstacles

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The Task Force to Study Electronic Health Systems, convened by Maryland’s general assembly, has identified barriers that stand in the way of a single statewide EMR system but said the potential to save money and time to improve the quality of care is enticing, according to a report released by the group.

The findings of the task force detail the financial, legal and logistical obstacles to creating such a system and suggest a universal approach to overcome them. According to the task force, Maryland should find a way to make the technology affordable and ensure all the health industry players — from doctors to insurers — find it worthwhile to use, reported The Daily Record.

The study analyzed issues including electronic health record keeping, e-prescribing and a health information exchange that could link all the disparate systems of the state’s health industry players.

Advocates of health IT said it could cut costs by preventing duplicate medical testing or procedures and costly allergic reactions or drug interactions but small physician practices and independent pharmacies are reluctant to shoulder the cost, but hospitals and insurers are more willing, the study found.

According to The Daily Record, incentives are key, including a pay-for-performance model in which insurers offer higher payments for doctors who use electronic records, the task force said. However, the report found that implementing technology is useless without health reforms including higher reimbursement rates for physicians and facilitating care for the uninsured.

The group said it is seeking proposals from coalitions of health industry players, detailing how they would implement a health information exchange to link disparate systems at doctors’ offices, hospitals and pharmacies.

The task force also examined the idea of personal health records, an electronic way for patients to carry their own health information with them. The group found that patients would become more comfortable with the safety and privacy of such an idea as attitudes change on the global stage.