The latest version of the economic stimulus legislation includes 187 pages called the Health IT for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH, with $20 billion in funding to implement a nationwide system of electronic health records (EHRs).

This is something that President Obama spoke of frequently during his campaign, and now it appears to be coming into fruition.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) envisions that, within a decade, some 90 percent of physicians and 70 percent of hospitals and other providers will become electrified (that word doesn’t quite work, does it?) as a result of HITECH. In other words, they will be using electronic health records (EHRs).

HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, comes into play here, but when HIPAA was written, no one was really envisioning a nationwide data base of health records available online. However, here it all comes.

The law also creates an Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to oversee matters and enforce rules.

Finally, the law comes with a stick as well as a $20-billion carrot. At some point in the future, those who choose not to go electronic will get docked in their Medicare and Medicaid payments.

Ouch. That’ll teach ’em.