Electronic health records (EHRs) are detailed histories of each patient's interactions with the medical world. Healthcare providers will use EHRs to capture a person's entire medical history including doctors' notes and documentation, all medications and allergies, vital signs over time, immunization status, radiology images, laboratory test results, and billing information. EHRs will need to be compatible with different hospitals' computer programs enabling all health care systems to share a patient's medical history. When a patient visits the emergency department at the local hospital, for example, the doctor there will be able to access patient's clinical information from their primary care doctor through an EHR. It is hoped that EHRs will reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of care.
It is believed that EHRs will be funded by a $19 billion infusion into the health care system, part of the $787 billion 2009 stimulus package, from the federal government. Some money is being administered presently, while the bulk of the funding, which will be paid out to doctors and hospitals through Medicare and Medicaid incentives, is likely to begin being dispersed in 2010.