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Dell service to help hospitals with digital records

The new offering--a combination of hardware, software, and support--is aimed at helping medical professionals move to and share electronic medical records.

One key component of U.S. health care reform is the move toward digital medical records. Dell is hoping to play a role in that move.

Dell announced Thursday a new service to help doctors and hospitals more easily switch to electronic medical records (EMR).

Already in use by certain hospitals, the new EMR service--a combination of hardware, software, and support--is designed to make the transition from paper to digital records more affordable and practical for the average physician or medical staff.

Dell said its EMR system will also connect doctors and their sponsoring hospitals so they can share patient information, helping coordinate care, and slash administrative costs.

As part of its EMR package, Dell will go on site to a hospital to determine its needs and readiness. The company will install all hardware and software, offer training to the hospital staff, and provide 24-7 hardware and software support. The EMR application can be hosted either by the hospital or with a Dell EMR partner in a secure data center.

Dell said hospitals can integrate the service into their own information systems and offer it to affiliated doctors for their local practices. Dell's EMR system is modular, so hospitals can tailor it to their specific needs.

Electronic record keeping is seen as one measure to reduce health care costs across the board for consumers, companies, and the government. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed early this year offers financial incentives in the form of reimbursements to doctors and hospitals that can demonstrate a meaningful use of EMR systems in their practices by 2011.

Different surveys have found a variety of results on the rate of adoption of EMR systems in the U.S. Dell cited a survey from the July 2008 New England Journal of Medicine, which reported that less than 10 percent of physicians at the time had a fully-functional EMR system. That survey was compiled in late 2007 and early 2008.

A more recent March 2009 survey by the New England Journal of Medicine discovered that 17 percent of U.S. doctors and 8 percent to 10 percent of U.S. hospitals have even a basic EMR.

A December 2008 survey by the Center for Disease Control found that only 4 percent of doctors said they used a full EMR or Electronic Health Record (EHR) system, but 20 percent reported using a minimally-functional electronic record system.

The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that about 90 percent of doctors and 70 percent of hospitals will be using EMR within the next decade as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.