Athenahealth's Bush: Stimulus is HIT's 'cash-for-clunkers'

Leave it to Athenahealth Chairman and CEO Jonathan Bush to come up with this quotable gem about the federal health IT incentive program: "It's healthcare information technology's version of cash-for-clunkers," Bush said at a conference in California last week, New York Times columnist Steve Lohr reports.

Bush, who has been known to outfit his troops at HIMSS conferences with T-shirts reading, "Software is dead, dead, dead, dead," believes the Internet, cloud computing and software-as-a-service represent the future. To him, the big-name EMR vendors--the ones that lobbied hardest for the health IT provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act--stand for outdated client-server technology, and the rules for meaningful use are just complicated enough to favor the more traditional companies.

"Established technology is being given a federally funded new lease on life," Bush said at the conference. "Traditional health software now is on Medicare, being kept alive like grandma." (Death panels for EMRs, perhaps?)

Bush does agree that requiring "meaningful use" to earn health IT incentive payments is an important step forward, though. "It's real money for a pay-for-performance program," he said. "And that will have an effect."

For more, including some interesting reader comments about privacy:
- see Lohr's New York Times column