Cheryl Whitaker, M.D., is a big fan of government initiatives to automate the industry and promote data exchange. Whitaker, a former internist who now serves as chief medical officer at imaging vendor Merge HealthCare, says lack of data sharing among providers often creates a major obstacle in cost-effective treatment of chronic diseases. Incentive programs such as meaningful use-which rewards practices for adopting EHRs, and ultimately penalizes them if they don't-are a step in the right direction, she says.

"We're practicing in an archaic era when we can't share patient information. The technology exists for interoperability. The government is asking the industry to connect. They're also saying, 'if you don't, we're not going to pay you.' It is an awesome carrot and stick that will make this happen."

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