Hospitals and medical centers can earn incentives for converting health records to the electronic medium

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Recent healthcare reforms require that health records be transitioned from paper files to the electronic format by 2015. A stimulus package passed in 2009 by Congress will provide nearly $27 billion for hospitals and doctors to convert patient records.

Currently, if doctors are able to prove that they can make meaningful use of electronic health records using approved systems, they can become eligible to receive incentive payments of up to $63,750 per year over the next six years, the Palm Beach Post reports. Furthermore, qualified hospitals can receive an initial $2 million, plus $200 per patient discharge starting later this month.

Many federally funded agencies are beginning to assist hospitals and medical facilities with the transition. For instance, South Florida Regional Extension Center (REC) aids in the implementation of electronic record keeping and training of staff, and helps doctors become eligible for the incentives.

“One of our goals is to help physicians in small practices to make the transition,” Lisa Rawlins, executive director of REC, told the news source. “Because physicians are healers, not information technology professionals.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that by 2018, more than 35,000 employment opportunities in the health information technician field – which often requires employees to hold a health information management degree – will be available. This represents a 20 percent increase from 2008 numbers.