It will happen

Though political strife seems to be holding up progress on healthcare reform in Washington, it is good to see that healthcare IT is still enjoying full support from the Obama Administration.

In President Obama's recently released budget proposal for fiscal year 2010, he called on Congress to approve $81.3 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services. The president said he plans to make healthcare reform – and healthcare IT in particular – a major part of his long-term plans to put America back on track financially.

According to the administration, when it comes to healthcare IT, the  bottom line is, it saves money and saves lives, even if it is difficult to get the ball rolling at first.

In keeping with the president's past support of healthcare IT advancement, his budget request this year contains $110 million "to strengthen healthcare IT policy coordination and research activities."

Obama is requesting $286 million for research that compares the effectiveness of different medical options, building on the expansion of this research begun under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Last February, at Obama's urging, Congress approved more than $20.6 billion over 10 years to advance healthcare IT under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This is an unprecedented amount of federal funding for healthcare IT.

It looks like the president had no intention of that being a one-shot deal. In his fiscal year 2011 budget, which begins Oct. 1 – he has included a request for $78 million for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). This is a $17 million increase over what Congress funded last year.

According to the administration, the increase in ONC funding will help ONC continue to lead federal healthcare IT efforts, while implementing and evaluating programs established under ARRA.

There is already a hefty amount of activity for ONC to monitor, and recently leaders reorganized and expanded ONC to take on the additional workload.

All in all, it is promising to be a very big year for healthcare IT, and with federal monies likely to back success for its adoption.

This isn't saying there aren't major hurdles still out there, such as interoperability, varying state information exchange methods and frustrated physicians who wonder if adoption is worth it.

But like ONC chief David Blumenthal often says, "this change is inevitable, and it will happen."