Health care has moved into the computer era at a pace that might be described as “glacial.” The federal government hopes to accelerate the process by making large investments in electronic systems today, on the bet that they will reduce costs for the overall health care system in the long run.
The article by Weingart et al supports this premise. The federal stimulus package (HR 1-353, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 20091) includes funding to promote the “meaningful use” of electronic health record systems, a term which, at the time of this writing, is still being defined. However, it will likely include several components beyond paperless medical records, namely, e-prescribing, quality reporting, and health information exchange. The intended goals are to simultaneously achieve more effective care and slow the growth in health care spending.