GE Healthcare has launched a programme of €72m ($100m) in interest-free loans to boost electronic medical record (EMR) adoption in the US.

Hospitals and doctors will be offered loans to invest in GE Healthcare’s Centricity EMR software, without having to first raise funding for capital investment. Investment in certified EMR systems forms a key part of President Obama’s economic stimulation bill, with up to €14 billion ($19 billion) earmarked for health IT.

The initiative is part of GE’s €4.3 billion ($6 billion) healthymagination initiative, announced last month. The new program, called Stimulus Simplicity, offers doctors and hospitals an immediate route to adoption of GE’s Centricity EMR software, either as stand alone or web-based software.

The initiative forms the first tranche of the €1.4 ($2 billion) GE said in May it would set aside for financing health IT investments, specifically in EMRs.

GE aims to stimulate demand in the €11 billion ($15 billion) US healthcare IT market. Investing in electronic records can cost from €360,000 ($500,000) for a mid-sized physician practice to €14m ($20m) for a large community hospital.

The financing enables healthcare providers to accelerate adoption of EMRs and further their efforts to reduce cost and improve patient care through greater access to valuable information at the point of care.

GE will offer doctors and hospitals interest free loans to invest in compliant EMR software. The loans will not carry interest until the institutions begin receiving government money, typically in 2012.

Under the HITECH Act of the American Recovery and Reinvestment, federal stimulus funds won’t become available for EMRs until 2011. The federal government has yet to set specific guidelines for determining what constitutes a “qualified” system.

Although the guidelines have yet to be finalised, GE is now offering customers a firm warranty that it will make its Centrity EMR and Centricity Enterprise products compliant, together with zero-interest funding with deferred payments to qualified buyers “so they can have immediate access to this technology without the up-front capital costs”.

GE’s financial services business, GE Capital, will provide the financing with GE Healthcare providing its EMR product certification warranty.

The Hazard Clinic, in the Appalachian region of Eastern Kentucky, is among the first to qualify for the interest-free opportunity and will use the loan to purchase the Centricity EMR product.

“This gives a small, rural clinic like ours a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring our patients the type of technology they’d typically have to travel for,” said Stephanie Wooton, Hazard Clinic administrator.

“Electronic medical records are designed to assist providers in improving patient outcomes, and reducing medical errors and costs,” said Vishal Wanchoo, president and CEO of GE Healthcare IT. “However, significant financial barriers are making healthcare providers hesitant to adopt the technology.”

Wanchoo added: “GE’s zero-interest interim funding and certification warranty provide doctors, community health clinics and hospitals a bridge to qualifying for stimulus funds and faster access to the improved care available through electronic medical record use.”