Obama says IT is critical to transforming healthcare

By Bernie Monegain
10:21 AM

During a prime-time White House press conference Tuesday night, President Barack Obama reiterated his commitment to healthcare reform and stood firm on his assertion that healthcare IT must to be at the crux of reform.

After brief introductory remarks, Obama took questions on topics ranging from bi-partisanship to race, with most  focused on the state of the economy and Obama's proposed $3.6 trillion budget.

When asked by CBS News' chief White House Correspondent Chip Reid about bipartisanship and the apparent difficulties the administration has had in achieving its initiatives, Obama turned his attention to healthcare IT. He pledged to continue his efforts at bipartisanship, and added that he would continue to keep his focus on what needed to be done in the areas of healthcare, energy and education.

"I can't afford to see Congress play the usual political games," he said. "What we have to do right now is deliver for the American people. So my bottom line when it comes to the recovery package is send me a bill that creates or saves 4 million jobs, because everybody has to be possessed with a sense of urgency about putting people back to work, making sure that folks are staying in their homes, that they can send their kids to college."

Obama continued with remarks on energy and his belief that the federal government has a critical role to play in setting energy policy.

"When people suggest that what a waste of money to make federal buildings more energy-efficient – why would that be a waste of money?" he asked. "We're creating jobs immediately by retrofitting these buildings or weatherizing 2 million Americans' homes. ... So that right there creates economic stimulus, and we are saving taxpayers, when it comes to federal buildings, potentially $2 billion."

"The same applies when it comes to information technologies and healthcare," Obama continued. "We know that healthcare is crippling businesses and making us less competitive, as well as breaking the banks of families all across America. And part of the reason is we've got the most inefficient healthcare system imaginable. We're still using paper. We're still filing things in triplicate. Nurses can't read the prescriptions that doctors have written out. Why wouldn't we want to put that on an electronic medical record that will reduce error rates, reduce our long-term cost of healthcare and create jobs right now?"

In response to a question about building support for healthcare reform, Obama emphasized that tackling healthcare reform, energy and education would in the long run save money and create new jobs.

"They'll be jobs building the wind turbines and solar panels and fuel-efficient cars that will lower our dependence on foreign oil and modernizing our costly healthcare system that will save us billions of dollars and countless lives," he said.

The economic stimulus package includes $19.5 billion to boost the adoption and use of healthcare IT.