Dr. James Coffin, VP of Healthcare and Life Sciences at Dell, has a post up on the Dell Healthcare Community site that looks at the stances of the various Republican candidates for the US Presidential nomination. It’s an interesting read if you haven’t been following the republican candidates very much.
What the article doesn’t address is these candidates stance on the HITECH Act. The key here is to realize that the HITECH act isn’t part of the Affordable Care Act which every GOP candidate is saying they will repeal if they become President. So, where does that really leave the HITECH Act should a republican president be elected?
The problem is that no one really knows. Those who argue that the HITECH Act is safe often lean on the ideas that EMR and EHR has always had bipartisan support. Many often mention that the push for adoption of EHR software was started by a republican president, George W. Bush. I actually agree that both sides of the aisle want to have widespread adoption of EHR. We could certainly argue the benefits or detriments of EHR adoption, but for a relatively uninformed senate, house and president when it comes to EHR, they’re going to easily grab on to the idea that technology can improve healthcare. We may agree or disagree with this point, but I think we’d be hard pressed to find a senator that thinks we shouldn’t have EHR technology in healthcare.
The problem with the above discussion has to do with the way that EHR is being paid for. Again, this isn’t about whether the idea of paying doctors to use EHR software is right or wrong, good or bad. This is more about the political stance of the republicans and how they want government to spend money. It seems very clear to me that Republicans are going to keep sitting on their no spending/cut spending soap box. If a republican becomes President, we’re likely to see widespread cuts. Could HITECH money be a casualty of those cuts? Absolutely. Will they be a casualty? Can anyone predict what Washington will really do?
Should doctors and practices then be afraid of going after the EHR stimulus money? Well, I’ve been advising doctors and practices for the last couple years to not implement an EHR in order to get the government hand out. Those that are doing EHR for “free” government money are going to be disappointed. Not only because the money could be cut, but because sooner or later that money will be gone. So, if you’ve followed my advice, then the loss of the EHR stimulus money will be unfortunate but not too terrible.
On the other hand, those people who only did EHR because the government was waving the carrot and the stick are likely going to be quite disappointed. Particularly if the practice focused on the governments EHR requirements instead of their own individual practice needs when it comes to an EHR. Sadly, I believe there are many clinics in this boat.
I’m sure there are other Washington DC insider workings that are in play as well. Hopefully many of you will share some of what you know in the comments.
Personally, I’m still fairly confident that the EHR stimulus money will play itself out. I’ll be a little surprised if indeed it does get cut. I think republicans will have larger fish to fry. However, there’s certainly that possibility, so doctors should take this into account when they’re selecting and implementing an EHR.