Last Tuesday night President Obama maintained that the surest way to reduce the deficit is to reduce healthcare spending. IT investment is a big part of that. The stimulus package contains more than $20 billion in outlays for health-information technology, coming mostly between 2011 and 2015. The plan comes with a carrot-and-stick approach. Hospitals and physician offices who make their records electronic by 2015 will receive incentive payments; those who do not will get fined. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123785277722019609.htmlIt is hoped that the billions spent will lead to many more billions saved in time and errors. PaperFree Tampa Bay, a new public/private partnership expects to hire 132 people to help 3,200 physicians learn how to write electronic prescriptions. http://tampabay.bizjournals.com/tampabay/stories/2009/03/16/daily6.html

    There is a lot of work to be done. A federally funded survey published last year found that only 13% of practicing doctors used basic electronic health records. Eric Brown of Forrester Research maintains that many of the IT consulting contracts will go to small businesses since the labor- intensive work of dealing with small offices does not scale well for the larger firms.

    Boston-based AMICAS (Nasdaq:AMCS, http://www.amicas.com, provides IT support to the radiology market. Its systems capture radiology orders, detail the patient demographic information, schedule appointments and resources, process transcriptions, and generate reports, as well as to code and prepare billing and reimbursement data.The company acquired a key competitor last month and trades at $1.85, Low/High 1.27/2.96.

    Atlanta-based Eclipsys (Nasdaq: ECLP, http://www.eclipsys.com, has a diverse client base ranging from large academic centers to specialty centers to community hospitals. Bookings for its main product suite, Sunrise EPSi, tripled from 2007 to 2008. Trading volume is healthy at over 1 million shares a day and the price, $10.11, is far off its 52-week high of $23.46. Transcend Services (Nasdaq: TRCR), http://www.transcendservices.com,  was listed in Motley Fool’s lists of companies that could get a stimulus boost. The Atlanta firm converts physicians’ voice recordings into electronic medical record documents. Its 4th Q 2008 gross profit increased 29% to $4.8 million on improved margins compared to 4Q 2007. At $9.60, the stock is under the radar and thinly traded.

    Clarient Inc (Nasdaq: CLRT, http://www.clarientinc.com) *, of Aliso Viejo CA could benefit as a result of the overall emphasis of technology upgrades. Among its business segments is its PATHSiTE, a virtual lab for community pathologists that provides access to Clarient’s innovative diagnostic technologies and world-class pathology experts. It trades at $1.71. High/low is $0.82/$2.35 and Clarient has experienced torrid growth, including a 72% increase in revenue for the year ended December 31, 2008 versus 2007. *client of Allen & Caron, publisher of this blog

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