During Barack Obama’s campaign for president, Obama promised significant investment in health information technology, stating that an investment in health information technology would offer a boost to the economy while also laying the framework for reducing healthcare costs in the future. Investments in health information technology and other health related areas are present in the most current version of the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Bill, or the economic stimulus package.
Specifically, the economic stimulus package provides for an additional $1.5 billion for grants or contracts to renovate or repair existing non-Federal research facilities. In addition, funding is to be given to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to support comparative effectiveness research. This funding is to be used to accelerate the development and dissemination of research assessing the comparative effectiveness of health care treatments and strategies.
Of particular note, the economic stimulus package also provides for funding to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to support health information technology integration, including the conversion to electronic health records. Of the $2 billion, $20 million will be used to support National Institution of Standards and Technology in the Department of Commerce. This broad subsidization of the conversion to electronic health records is in contrast to the Bush administration’s approach of relaxing federal regulations so that hospitals, insurers, and others could provide equipment and software to physicians without fear of violating applicable Federal healthcare laws.
Although the Bush administration began the process of putting in place standards to ensure that different health information technology computer systems could exchange important patient data, the funding provided for in the economic stimulus package would be a step in the direction of achieving a widespread adoption of the use of electronic health records.