Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator for health information technology within the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said 50 percent of primary care providers will have adopted basic electronic health record systems within a couple of years -- up from 20 percent in 2009.
Although most industries have already adopted computerized records, healthcare has been slow to computerize medical records because of the cost and burden to individual doctors and hospitals.
"Our goal is to do whatever we can to see to it that no one gets penalized for not using health information technology in 2015, the year after federal incentive payments end and when providers who haven't adopted the technology and demonstrated meaningful use will face lower Medicare and Medicaid payments," Mostashari said in a statement.
For example, primary care doctors need hospital discharge data about their patients so they can help manage their patients' care and prevent them from being readmitted to a hospital. However, there is little such electronic information sharing today, Mostashari said.
In 2012, federal officials want to facilitate it so when a patient arrives at an emergency department with sudden chest pain, a physician could seek information about the patient's cardiac history from another health care provider via the computer.
"Giving every provider the means to securely send and receive patient information to support better care coordination is a top priority for 2012," Mostashari said.
The findings were published in Health Affairs.