Billions of dollars are up for grabs after the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)—also known as the stimulus bill. As small business owners looking to streamline operations, orthodontists may wish to tap the legislation’s $19 billion set aside for adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs).

Specific instructions on how that money will be dispersed are unavailable at this point, but the large sum is additional evidence that government officials are enthusiastic about electronic records.

EMR aid could come in handy to boost practice efficiency. “I am in favor of the assistance to establish EMRs, because it will facilitate several areas of medicine,” says Robert Chastant, DDS, owner of Chastant Orthodontics, New Iberia, La. “It is likely that a patient could be seeing several physicians, and be prescribed medications that could conflict with other physicians’ medications—without orthodontists knowing it. With EMRs, patients can have their information forwarded anywhere in just seconds.”

Electronic health records (EHRs) and EMRs first gained significant attention in 2004 when President George W. Bush set a 10-year goal to get most Americans a personal EHR. The idea is similar to EMR, but software applications can differ greatly depending on the medical specialty. Signed by President Barack Obama on February 17, 2009, the ARRA continues this presidential initiative in hopes of creating a nationwide health IT infrastructure that could ultimately foster a national health information network.

If the opportunity should arise, Neal D. Kravitz, DMD, MS, owner of Va-based Kravitz Orthodontics, says he will not be applying for EMR funds. “We as orthodontists are coming from abundance,” Kravitz says. “We have chosen a profession of great prosperity and financial security. Therefore, I would hope government financing is only provided to those truly deserving or in need, such as clinicians who take Medicare/Medicaid, provide a given number of pro-bono cases, work on Indian reservations or dental-deprived communities—as well as residencies and hospitals.”