Small practices give lawmakers an earful about DC-centric HIT regulations

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The federal government has made large-scale adoption of electronic medical records (EHR) a cornerstone of its health reform strategy since 2004, but most practices have yet to go paperless (fewer than a quarter of office-based physicians had a fully functional EHR system last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The nation's 640,000 office-based physicians in particular lag behind, prompting Thursday's hearing.

"Health IT offers promise to all medical professionals," panel chairwoman Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) said in her opening remarks. "However, financial, legal and technology barriers prevent many, particularly smaller practices, from moving forward with EHRs."

Federal regulators said at the hearing that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and states are already providing incentive payments to 1,139 eligible professionals and 110 hospitals. The 2009 stimulus bill included Health Information Technology legislation that allows for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for medical professionals that adopt electronic medical records, while calling for penalties for laggards starting in 2015.