Feds ease ehealth record rules for doctors

In an effort to encourage wider adoption of digital health records, federal officials last week finalized rules to allow hospitals and others to give doctors computers, software and related services without running afoul of federal fraud and abuse laws. The new policies exempt high-tech gifts from laws limiting products doctors can receive from health care providers without charge, protecting them from prosecution. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said the move was a step toward meeting President Bush's goal for all Americans to have electronic medical records by 2014.

Many experts agree computerized records can help prevent costly medical mistakes, but price and other factors have kept most practitioners from abandoning paper forms. Some say doctors should not have to pay for the technology while insurers reap the savings, calling for greater government support. The Bush administration so far is relying on the private sector to make the push.

Under the new policies, doctors can receive unlimited components for electronic systems that meet certification standards but must cover 15 percent of the costs. The rules, which take effect in 60 days, are set to expire by Bush's 2014 deadline.

For more on the new rules:
- visit this article in USA Today