GOP presidential candidates boast health IT ties

Three of the putative or declared candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination--Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney--have associations with health information technology, one of President Obama's signature initiatives, outlines a recent piece in Healthcare IT News.

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House who announced his candidacy earlier this month, was promoting health IT as one of the solutions to the nation's healthcare crisis even before Obama threw his hat into the ring for the 2008 Democratic nomination for President. In two books--2007's "Paper Kills" and 2010's "Paper Kills 2.0"--Gingrich made the case that the spread of electronic health records and connectivity can save lives and money. He also endorsed a campaign-spearheaded by Allscripts and other technology vendors--to provide free e-prescribing software to physicians.

Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation, a Washington think tank, lays out an agenda for health IT that is strikingly similar to that of the Obama Administration. Strangely, the center calls for "a clear, concise, and useable legislative exemption and safe harbor to Stark and Anti-kickback statutes," that would allow hospitals to help community physicians acquire EHRs. (Somehow, I was under the impression that the Department of Health and Human Services did this back in 2006, under the Bush administration.)

Former Minnesota Governor Pawlenty, meanwhile, in 2008 signed legislation that required all healthcare providers to have electronic health records by 2015. Whether he's touting this milestone on the campaign trail or not, there's no questioning that it has had a major impact on Minnesota practices, which are only four years away from the deadline.

Romney, perhaps, could have the most interesting go of things. Despite Massachusetts' expansion of the use of health IT under his watch as governor from 2003 to 2007, most people instead will likely associate Romney with the statewide reform legislation he approved in 2006 that many believe to be a blueprint for the nationwide healthcare reform legislation passed in March 2010.

To learn more:
- see the Healthcare IT News story on the subject
- read the Physicians Practice article about state EHR mandates
- check out the health IT agenda of the Center for Health Transformation