Promoted as a means of not only improving health care quality but saving money ( the often quoted $ 77.8 Billion that computers would save in medical care costs) the mandate and subsidy to physicians to adopt electronic health records (EHRs) did not randomly appear in the 787 pages of the 2009 stimulus bill also known as American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)
Application of the "follow the money rule" is interesting this regard.
See here for an article from the Washington Post that gives some interesting back story to the HITECH Act which had been waiting in the legislative wings for some time without much congressional support until the 2007-2008 recession and then its insertion into ARRA. Nothing like a good crisis to get stuff done. See here for another important commentary by InformaticsMD (aka Dr. Scot M. Silverstein) who writes regularly at the blog "Health Care Renewal " and writes tirelessly about the major problems with medical IT as it is being sold ( and mandated) to the medical profession.The initial $36.5 billion for computerization of medical records is just the first of a gift that keeps on giving to the IT industry. There will be a income stream as software will need updating as will hardware and system malfunctions will need continuing maintenance and a headache stream for the docs who bought in to this Trojan Horse.
HITECH provided subsidies and a very firm nudge to physicians to acquire computer systems to make operational EHRs in their practices.Further a number of hoops have to be jumped through to receive further monetary rewards and as time goes on to avoid penalties.The term "meaningful use" refers to some of the hoops which in part obligate physicians to report on certain metrics that are allegedly measures of the quality of the care they provide to their patients but really are techniques to force savings.