Romney or Obama? How either election outcome will affect health IT

FierceHealthIT Advisory Board members weigh in on next week's elections
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Right in the thick of this year's presidential election season, the House of Representatives and the Senate have raised questions about the effectiveness of the Meaningful Use incentive program. The former went so far as to call the program "weak" and "a waste of taxpayer dollars," in a letter sent to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Oct. 4.

To that end, we at FierceHealthIT wonder how the election will impact the industry once the dust settles next Wednesday (assuming the dust does settle by then). We asked our FierceHealthIT Advisory Board members to share their thoughts on how the election results--either way--will impact health technology professionals.

Ed Bennett (right), director of web and communication technology for the University of Maryland Medical System, said he thinks the health IT industry could indeed feel an impact, as changes to the law likely would cause many in hospitals to refocus their priorities.

"Everybody's working with limited budgets and resources," Bennett said.

Donna Staton (left), CIO at Fauquier Health System in Warrenton, Va., said she thinks that the aforementioned Congressional scrutiny of Meaningful Use could grow with significant changes to the political landscape.

"The recent attention on providers gaming the system, I believe, will increase the audit probability of hospitals and eligible providers having to reimburse those dollars, or put more controls in place before payments are issued," she said. "We see this as increasing with the [recovery audit contractors], and I believe this will occur with more frequency."

Roger Neal (right), CIO at Duncan (Okla.) Regional Hospital, meanwhile, said he thinks that not a whole lot will change, no matter who's tapped to occupy the White House beginning in January 2013. He compared the industry to a slow moving ship that already has been turned 180 degrees, and said that the pain involved in changing course likely would be too much of a burden.

"At this point, the entire industry has been turned headed toward more efficient communication using electronic medical records to do so," Neal said. "For President Obama, he will not let up on making that a reality because he was the driving force to get it going. If Mitt Romney were to be elected, I don't see him cutting that off."

Joseph Kvedar (left), director of Partners HealthCare's Center for Connected Health in Boston, agreed, saying that if Obama is re-elected, the movement of Meaningful Use and accountable care will continue, helping the industry grow.

"And if Romney is elected, while he has said he'll focus on repealing certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act, I believe they will not be the ones that directly affect accountable care," Kvedar said.

That opinion also was shared by a pair of attorneys writing in a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, who believed the individual mandate, federal Medicaid payments to states and the Independent Advisory Board to be much more likely targets.

Related Articles:
Lawmakers: 'Weak' Meaningful Use rules a 'waste of taxpayer dollars'
Senate Republicans question Sebelius on Meaningful Use
Romney unlikely to repeal health reform law