GE to offer electronic medical record financing

General Electric Co.’s health care division said Monday it will offer financing to doctors and hospitals that buy GE’s electronic medical records equipment in an effort to cover an expected lag in the flow of federal stimulus money meant for the medical technology.

Through its GE Capital lending arm, GE Healthcare will make $100 million available to potential buyers of GE’s equipment that computerizes paper patient medical records.

The $787 billion federal stimulus package includes about $19 billion to help doctors and hospitals shift their systems to electronic medical records. But much of the money isn’t expected to be available until 2011, and investing in the computer equipment and software for a system can cost up to several million dollars for medical providers.

GE Healthcare hopes to entice potential customers by offering loans that carry zero interest and deferred payments for providers until they receieve stimulus money. The company will also offer a warranty to cover any needed changes to the electronic medical record systems, also known as EMRs, once the federal government releases standards for how those systems should work.

“This would essentially enable them (customers) to implement an EMR with no upfront capital cost,” said Vishal Wanchoo, president of GE Healthcare IT.

Electronic medical records are supposed to make health care cheaper by cutting down on paperwork and more efficient by streamlining the way patient files are stored and shared. But only about 20 percent of U.S. health providers use the technology, in part because of the relatively high start up costs.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.