GE offers EMR financing

The move follows a trend of vendors making it easier for physicians to buy health technology.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted June 30, 2009

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GE announced in June the launch of a new financing program aimed at helping physician practices and small hospitals adopt electronic medical record systems.

The company said its program, Stimulus Simplicity, will help physicians address two of the largest barriers to EMR adoption: uncertainty around future standards and a lack of up-front funding for the purchase of a system.

Vishal Wanchoo, president and CEO of GE Healthcare IT, officially announced the program on June 15. But Wanchoo first told American Medical News about GE's financing plan in April at the annual conference of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

The conference was held just weeks after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act had been signed into law. The promise of incentive money advancing adoption of health information technology was the talk of the conference, but many physicians in attendance expressed concern that they would not have the cash to make the purchase.

GE and other vendors AMNews spoke to at HIMSS said they were working on financing options for physician practices that would be similar to those offered to large hospital groups. With studies showing the failure rate of EMR implementations at about 50%, and many more stories of the systems causing a drop in productivity and revenue, loans to practices were sometimes considered too risky.

Because the incentives can provide up to $44,000 per physician and could easily cover the cost of an average system, which runs about $30,000, vendors are now considering small practices to be a safer bet.

GE has made about $100 million available for the program. Part of the money will help fund GE's guarantee that any systems purchased through the program will meet so-called "meaningful use" requirements necessary for physicians to qualify for the incentive pay.

Under GE's program, a joint project between GE Healthcare and GE Capital, the company's financing arm, payments will be deferred until the incentive bonuses start in 2011.

The Hazard Clinic, a small practice in the Appalachian region of Kentucky, was one of the first to take advantage of the financing program. Practice administrator Stephanie Wooten called it a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" for a rural clinic like hers.

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