The implementation of electronic medical records (EMR) is a major transition for health care IT departments. It is, however, only one element of the bigger drive to modernize the way health care operates. IT departments, which are at the center of the many storms this desire is spawning, are scrambling to deal with the heavy workload.
Few people would argue with the value of better managing patient records. Putting records into electronic form has untold benefits. Some examples: EMR makes prescription mistakes less likely, enables doctors in a vacation locale to quickly get salient information about a sick visitor and allows two facilities providing care for a patient - such as a walk-in medical clinic and a nearby hospital emergency room to which that person is sent - to view the same images. The streamlining EMR provides can drastically cut the cost of health care.
Getting from here to there is quite a journey, however. The government is taking a carrot-and stick approach to EMR. For the time being, physicians and hospitals that deploy systems will get the greatest incentive possible: checks in the mail. Beginning in 2015, however, the stick will take over. At that point, Medicare reimbursements will be adjusted downward for doctors and facilities that don't comply. (Like all things concerning the government and health care, it's complex. A good deal of information is available at The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid website.)