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'The Business of Health Care Report'

Electronic Health Record: Removing Barriers Under Stark

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I’m Doug Hawthorne, president and CEO of Texas Health Resources, with “The Business of Health Care Report.”

One of the most talked about topics in health care today is the Electronic Health Record – the EHR. This computerized system for collecting, organizing, managing and sharing patient information holds the tantalizing possibility of significantly improving quality and patient safety while also helping control costs.

Texas Health Resources has made great progress toward implementing the Electronic Health Record in its hospitals. But hospital systems and physicians are up against a formidable barrier that threatens effective adoption of the technology.

Federal regulations, known as the “Stark laws,” prohibit certain transactions between hospitals and physicians. One result is that hospitals cannot provide physicians with the technology that enables them to implement the Electronic Health Record. It can be an unacceptably expensive proposition for a physician practice to shoulder the entire cost of implementing the EHR.

So no matter how much hospitals invest in building the Electronic Health Record, doctors may not be able to implement it in their own practices.

Imagine if your business weren’t allowed to use your vendor’s system for electronic transfer of inventory and shipping data.

The President and Congress can remove this barrier by making a specific exemption under the Stark law that could facilitate more rapid adoption of Electronic Health Record technology. I urge them to do it as an important step toward quality and safety improvement.

For Texas Health Resources and its faith-based hospitals – Harris Methodist, Presbyterian and Arlington Memorial – I’m Doug Hawthorne.

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