State of the Union speech omits mention of healthcare IT

By Diana Manos
10:51 AM

Healthcare IT has been highlighted over the past four years in State of the Union speeches, though President Barack Obama made no mention of it in his Wednesday night speech. Some stakeholders defend the Administration's support of health IT, while others question it.

 Bruce Merlin Fried, a partner at Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal, LLP in Washington, DC, said while there was no mention of healthcare IT, it remains the one fundamental structure for healthcare reform that has been passed and been funded. 

"I hope that the Administration will use its HIT efforts to advance necessary reforms, like increased care coordination," Fried said.

Last February, Obama and Congress gave more than $30 billion toward supporting the advancement of healthcare IT in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

This is the largest sum of federal money ever allotted toward healthcare IT, and it is a downpayment, according to Obama, on the future of healthcare reform. ARRA calls for incentives for healthcare IT adoption and funding to study evidence-based medicine.

Tim Stettheimer, board chair of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is not as optimistic about the ARRA funding.

"What is not needed are stimulus packages that set out lofty goals for healthcare information technology, yet only offer potential incentives once providers have actually come up with funding on their own," Stettheimer said. "What is not needed are so many hurdles to actually achieving a massively bloated definition of "meaningful use" that very few are able to get there.  What is not needed are penalties that kick in for those unable to achieve still undefined objectives."               

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's (HIMSS), Electronic Health Record Association was encouraged by the president's State of the Union address.

"Health IT, specifically EHRs, create the essential infrastructure in furthering his agenda to promote public health and wellness, innovations in clinical research and to prevent bioterrorism," according to EHR Association Chair Justin Barnes.

"The President also called to increase the transparency of what occurs on Capitol Hill, and that is encouraging since creating complex and balanced criteria around important initiatives such as EHR meaningful use, certification, standards, interoperability and privacy and security takes expertise from many industry leaders and I see these processes only getting better with the administration," Barnes said.

"It was also encouraging to hear the President's commitment to small businesses and their recovery," Barnes said. "Fifty-five percent to 65 percent of Americans work in small businesses and that is also where most of this country's and world's innovations come from. Small businesses are also the backbone of our economy and to increase access to capital for their growth and expansion would not only be important for the healthcare and health IT sectors but also for our communities and regions."

The full text of the State of the Union speech is on the next page.

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