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Electronic Health Records

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At Dr. Sumir Sahgal's medical practice, there's not a sheet of paper in sight. The old files are sitting in the basement. All his patient records are now electronic.

"With the paper record it was tedious, difficult to document, difficult to follow up. Here it's present at the click of a button."

To cyber savvy patients, that might seem obvious. But much of the medical community has been behind the curve.

The government estimates that just 40% of doctors in the U.S. have converted from these paper files to at least a basic electronic health record.

To increase those numbers, the government subsidizes local experts to help doctors convert. They say when it's done right, it leads directly to better care.

"We're seeing improved rates of blood pressure control, diabetes control, people quitting smoking," says Brent Stackhouse.

President Obama's new healthcare law encourages doctors to join networks and share records electronically. The downside is that different practices use different software, which aren't always compatible. And sometimes technology breaks down.

"There were times our work flow stopped because internet access wasn't great."

Dr. Sang Pak just began switching over a few months ago. That means scanning old records one page at a time and learning a whole new system. But he says it's an improvement from the paper trail.

"Every time we need to share data we would have to stop our work and communicate by phone or by fax."

He says the change is overdue and hopes it will bring the American medical system back to the cutting edge.

The switch to electronic records was originally projected to save the U.S. more than $80 billion a year. But because of slow adoption that hasn't panned out yet.

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