NU Online News Service, Dec. 7, 2004, 5:02 p.m. EST

A New England health insurer is trying to bring Massachusetts doctors into the information age.[@@]

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Boston, has pledged up to $50 million for a Bay State electronic health record initiative.

Organizers hope to set up 3 electronic health record pilot projects by March 2005.

Some experts have estimated that persuading doctors and hospitals to switch to electronic records, from paper files, could improve the quality of health care and cut costs by as much as 30%. But, even in Massachusetts, a state known for its high-tech industry and large, innovative, nonprofit health maintenance organizations, many doctors have been sticking with paper files.

The new Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative will try to address data standards conflicts, privacy concerns and other barriers to automation, organizers say.