The pundits are out beginning to comment on what the Obama administration will mean to the healthcare IT market. One of the leading HIT spokespersons, John Halamka made his predictions earlier this week. Today, I came across a fairly lengthy article in CNN Money. At first thought of critiquing both, found the CNN article to be poorly researched (despite all the quotes and numbers) and Halamka’s slanted (all about hospitals, physicians and standards, little about consumers, record access and control) and a bit too rosy on programs, committees and progress to date.
So, putting on our pundit and forecasting hat, here is what we see coming from Obama’s new administration:
The oft-quoted $10B a year investment in HIT will not materialize, in the near-term. There is a small problem down on Wall Street that has extended across the country, heck the world, that will consume most available resources. During the second half of his term, Obama may begin opening up the spigots and direct some significant funding towards healthcare IT but that will only occur if more pressing financial issues are brought under control.
Tighten budgets will put strain on all healthcare stakeholders. This will lead to no one willing to give up their stake for the better good. Such committees as AHIC will be impotent in their ability to move anything significant forward.
Federal funding of RHIOs will continue, but at a lower level. Limited resources and a lack of RHIOs that have actually succeeded (become self-sustaining) will force the Feds to reassess such funding, despite Kolodner’s loud protestations.
While being a strong supporter of Obama (worked local voting booth for the primary election), not convinced that throwing money at the HIT adoption problem is sound policy. Such approaches tend to be top-heavy, too perscriptive, and despite the best of intentions, mis-aligned with true market needs.
Where the government can play a much more important and significant role is in the restructuring of programs it already funds (CMS), crafting incentive policies that create market forces to drive HIT adoption. For example, the CMS program to push eRx, first with a carrot, later with a stick, makes a whole lot of sense.
Now, if we could only get legislation changed to allow CMS to support telehealth (new technology with clear benefits) or funding in support of PHR demonstrations, then we would be getting somewhere.