GE Offers Stimulus Loans To Bolster E-Medical Records

GE also promises that its GE Centricity e-medical record products will be certified to meet evolving health IT standards.

June 17, 2009

3 Min Read
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Starting in 2011, the U.S. government will begin spending an estimated $20 billion rewarding doctors and hospitals for their "meaningful use" of e-health record systems. But first, doctors and hospitals have to lay out the money to deploy those systems. GE this week announced an interest-free loan program to help healthcare providers handle the up-front investment.GE's new "Stimulus Simplicity" program -- a joint offering between GE Capital and GE Healthcare -- includes two "core" elements. Besides the interest-free loans with deferred payments, GE also has promised that its GE Centricity e-medical record products will be certified to meet evolving health IT standards.The catch for the interest-free loans is that the financing is available for purchases of GE's line of Centricity products and services. Besides EMR systems, the Centricity line includes Centricity Enterprise, which is an offering of integrated clinical, administrative, and financial applications, including computerized physician order-entry systems.Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) legislation, over the next five years starting in 2011, hospitals and doctors' offices that show "meaningful use" of "qualified" health IT such as e-medical records will be eligible to receive financial rewards in the form of higher Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. Laggards who don't use e-medical record systems in "meaningful" ways will be penalized with lower reimbursements starting in 2015."It's great that the government is funding to stimulate the adoption of e-medical records, but the cash doesn't start flowing till 2011 or 2012," depending when hospitals and doctors have deployed their systems, said Vishal Wanchoo, president and CEO of GE Healthcare IT, in an interview with InformationWeek. Since the stimulus funding doesn't address the initial IT investments most healthcare providers need to make in the meantime, the GE financing helps, he said."The economy has put a strain on many organizations, this [loan program] takes that off," he said. "They start paying us back when they start getting reimbursed" from the federal programs.Meanwhile, the Stimulus Simplicity warranty that GE's Centricity products will meet evolving federal requirements for certification should come pretty easy for GE.Through a GE development relationship with Intermountain Healthcare, which operates several hospitals in Utah, GE has a couple of links to the government's HIT Policy Committee and HIT Standards Committee, which are federal advisory groups working on details, including the definition of "meaningful use" and product certification criteria with the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT.Intermountain's CIO, Marc Probst, is a co-chair on the HIT Policy Committee's certification/adoption workgroup, and Intermountain's chief medical informatics officer, Dr. Stan Huff, is a member of the HIT Standards Committee.GE is in the middle of a seven-year pact with Intermountain to develop the next-generation version of Centricity e-medical record software. Intermountain will begin rolling out the next major release of the jointly developed software for in-patients in the third quarter, while GE plans to make the software generally available in the first quarter of 2010, Probst said in a recent InformationWeek interview. The new Centricity offerings will include improved clinical decision support and terminology services.Besides Intermountain, GE is also working with the Mayo Clinic in its ongoing Centricity development work, said Wanchoo."We have a simple warranty that GE products will meet certification requirements," said Wanchoo. However, customers meeting the "meaningful use" requirements to be eligible for the federal incentives ultimately will be the responsibility of healthcare providers, he said.GE is allotting an initial $100 million to the Stimulus Simplicity loans, said Wanchoo. The new program is part of GE's "Healthy Imagination" initiative, a $6 billion investment GE recently announced, focused on improving access, quality, and affordability of healthcare. The breakdown of GE's Healthy Imagination investments include $3 billion for technology and R&D, $1 billion for content aimed at consumers, and $2 billion in finance programs like the new Stimulus Simplicity loans, said Wanchoo. GE Healthcare IT is one of several products businesses of the multibillion-dollar GE Healthcare unit, said Wanchoo. Other products under the GE Healthcare banner include life sciences, healthcare systems, medical imaging, and medical devices. InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on increasing application performance. Download the report here (registration required).

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