Gambling Our Way to Electronic Medical Records

Posted on November 16, 2011 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

I’m writing to you from the balmy, breezy and absolutely beautiful Palm Springs, where the Porter Research team presented several sessions at this year’s Healthcare IT Summit. It’s my second year attending this conference, unique in that it brings together providers and payers for joint sessions and networking opportunities. I enjoy it because it’s an intimate setting in which to chat with providers about what their challenges are and how they plan to face them. Something you definitely don’t get at big shows like HIMSS. California is a nice change from last year’s chillier venue of Washington, D.C.

Little did I know that casinos are part of the after-hours culture in Palm Springs. Driving in from the airport – the smallest and prettiest I’ve ever been through – I noticed the bright lights of one of them, which reminded me of an article I came across last week regarding the state of Massachusetts’ plans to use anticipated revenue from casinos to accelerate the adoption of electronic medical records. Apparently, 23% of licensing fees from the state’s three casinos and one slot parlor may potentially go to a fund “designated in part to help the state switch to an electronic medical records-keeping system.”

Massachusetts, which already requires nearly everyone to have state health insurance, is doing what many other states have done in terms of leveraging gambling revenues for government projects. I myself have benefited from Georgia’s HOPE scholarship, which is funded from the state’s lottery.

Will other states follow suit? Is this an example of creative thinking on the part of the state government, or is there something amiss with private citizens spending their money in Native American casinos, which the government then takes a chunk out of for its mandated programs? I’ll admit, I’m a bit torn. Do we rah, rah, rah the out-of-the box thinking, or pooh pooh it because it’s too close to the vest?

Judy Hanover at IDC predicted in one of her sessions at the summit that the majority of US providers will be using electronic medical records by the end of 2012, with large physician practices leading the way. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there were 661,400 physicians in 2008, with 805,500 projected to be employed by 2018. Even taking into consideration the predicted shortage of physicians, that’s a big number to totally move from paper to digital in just a few years.

I wonder if we’ll see other creative funding ideas pop up – whether they be from the government, private investors, or even payers. A speaker at the summit brought up the notion of taxing soda to encourage folks to be healthy as part of this nation’s move to more coordinated care and more formal accountable care organizations. Could money from programs like that be used for EMR funding? Let me know what you’ve heard and think in the comments below.