EMRs get politicized again

Just when you thought EMRs were above the political fray swirling around this alleged healthcare reform going on in Washington, along comes a former HHS official to re-politicize the issue.

Tevi Troy, deputy HHS secretary under President George W. Bush, has joined with former Heritage Foundation health policy fellow Dr. Jason D. Fodeman to launch a political attack on the Obama administration's ambitious EMR plans. Writing in the Washington Times, a bastion of conservatism that's got a tiny readership compared to the venerable, left-leaning Washington Post, Troy and Fodeman question the wisdom of spending a net $19.2 billion on health IT in light of some recent studies showing that EMRs don't generate the kinds of cost savings the Obama White House are counting on. (Again, the $19.2 billion figure is a net amount, after factoring in expected efficiency gains. The gross outlay will be somewhere in the range of $35 billion to $45 billion.)

Troy and Fodeman specifically mention a statement by White House budget director Peter Orszag that HIT by itself won't lead to cost savings and cite a study in the Nov. 20 American Journal of Medicine that has a similar conclusion. Two of the three study authors happen to be Dr. David Himmelstein and Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, co-founders of Physicians for a National Health Program, a leading advocate of single-payer healthcare in America.

Single payer, of course, is not happening. But using PNHP as a strawman for discrediting the value of the EMR parts of the stimulus apparently remains fair game. That's a shame, since the HITECH Act was one of the few parts of ARRA that had broad, bipartisan support. It's also fairly ironic, since Troy was the public face of so many Bush-era EMR programs.

Sure, there is bound to be some politicization of the development of rules for meaningful use, but why drag politics back into the debate over EMR adoption in and of itself?

There's some food for thought to carry you into the new year, since FierceEMR and the rest of the FierceMarkets family of publications is taking a much-needed holiday break next week. We'll be back with our next issue on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010, but if news breaks--and we're expecting an announcement on meaningful use any day now--check www.fierceemr.com, or follow our Twitter feed, @fiercehealth. Happy holidays. - Neil