By Rachael King
Uncle Sam wants electronic medical records for every U.S. citizen by 2014. The government's goal is to improve the quality of care by shifting from a paper system to a digital one that lets doctors and hospitals more easily share records. While the Veterans Affairs Dept. has operated electronic health records in about 163 hospitals for more than a decade, the private sector has moved more slowly. In fact, fewer than 1% of the 5,000 or so hospitals in the U.S. have achieved either a paperless or nearly paperless state, according to Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Analytics, an organization that collects and analyzes health-care IT data.
HIMSS Analytics ranks nonfederal hospitals in stages from 0 to 7, according to how far their systems have gone toward doing away with paper record keeping. As of March, only 15 hospitals were considered truly paperless, earning a 7. Kaiser Permanente accounted for 12 of those hospitals. The other three were part of the NorthShore University HealthSystem, based in Evanston, Ill. Another 34 hospitals qualified as nearly paperless, garnering a stage-6 certification. The following BusinessWeek slide show indicates which hospitals within a given health-care system earned a 6 or 7. Does your local hospital make the grade?