Bentley spotlights move to electronic records

Published 8:14 pm Thursday, July 7, 2011

Many rural physicians don’t have access to newer technological advances to help them sort through patient information easily. But, thanks to a new federal initiative, paper patient charts can now be obsolete.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley made a stop in Selma and visited Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, Inc. on Medical Center Parkway Thursday morning to emphasize the importance of rural physicians moving to the electronic medical health records, or EHR, system.

Selma pediatrician Dr. Patricia Kendrick-Robinson, who has been in practice since 1988, is the first medical doctor in the area to receive federal incentives for incorporating the program.

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“I was down here from 10 p.m. until 11 p.m. every night for the first three months because I was passionate to make this (system) work,” said Robinson, who began using EHR earlier this year. “I saw the benefits of electronic medical records from the beginning of my practice. We have easy access to patients’ records, and that is the most important.”

The Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health Act, HITECH, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, established programs and authorized funding to support rapid adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records by doctors, hospitals and other health providers nationwide. HITECH also established the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records Incentive Programs to provide incentive payments to eligible professionals and eligible hospitals for using the technology. Physicians can apply for the Meaningful Use Incentive Payment Program, which offers them nearly $64,000, to implement into their practices.

Bentley said he is trying to improve the quality of healthcare for all patients by cutting down on medical error and duplication in paperwork.

“One of the ways I feel we best do that is to be able to transmit records from one physician or hospital to another,” Bentley said. “Being able to have good, clear, concise records are very important, and if we’re going to improve the quality of care all across the country, and especially in rural areas, we need to continue to improve the quality we have in electronics

“It’s not to invade people’s privacy… it’s to enhance the quality of healthcare in the state and for all of our patients.”

Robinson said all patients, regardless of who they are and where they live, deserve access to high quality health care.

“High quality care does not necessarily mean the most expensive,” Robinson said. “Quality care is safe care — free from medical injury, error or infection. The information technology program can help a physician and assist the physician in improving medicine and quality of care by focusing on evidence-based care. It’s about better outcomes, better quality and improving healthcare overall.

“It’s not about technology, it’s about practicing medicine in a better way to help the patient.”

Enrollment for the program began in Alabama in April and providers have until 2016 to participate. Since June, 234 eligible professionals have qualified for $5 million in payments and 11 hospitals have received $10 million in payments.