Illinois clinics spearhead effort to fund electronic medical records in rural areas

McFarlin Medical Clinic, with one doctor and 10 employees, can’t afford to convert from paper medical records to electronic versions. But the Hillsboro practice could benefit from an Illinois-based effort to change federal law and make millions of dollars in federal incentive payments available to rural health clinics. “We don’t have a lot of cash on hand to make a major investment like electronic medical records,” said Doris McFarlin, who manages the office of her husband, family medicine specialist Dr. Roger McFarlin. Some financial assistance, however, would make the conversion “a whole lot easier,” she said. A Quincy-based group of medical clinics is spearheading an effort to get Congress to change a section of the 2009 economic stimulus law that makes up to $27 billion in incentive payments available to doctors and hospitals over the next 10 years to adopt electronic medical records. The Quincy Medical Group operates rural health clinics in Quincy and elsewhere, including Winchester, Pittsfield, Barry, Pleasant Hill and Mount Sterling. The first federal incentive payments, which can total up to $44,000 per doctor over a five-year period through Medicare, are beginning this year for medical practices that use electronic records enough to meet the federal government’s “meaningful use” standards. But an unintended glitch in the law’s language made rural health clinics ineligible for incentives for electronic medical records, as well as other incentives in “pay-for-performance” programs, according to Aric Sharp, Quincy Medical Group chief utive officer, and Bill Finerfrock, utive director of the National Association of Rural Health Clinics. There are more than 3,700 rural health clinics across the country, including 219 in Illinois.


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