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TEPR Update: EMRs and the Presidential Race

May 19, 2008
by kate
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It only makes sense that at TEPR, a conference that claims to offer “practical information and real-life experiences involving EMRs,” would kick off its 2008 conference by examining how EMR adoption will change (if at all) when a new president is sworn in next January.

Peter Waegemann, CEO of Medical Records Institute, discussed findings on how providers around the country think the new administration will impact health IT. The topic is a hot one at any venue, and at the TEPR conference in Fort Lauderdale, it was sizzling.

Waegemann presented statements from all three candidates summing up their position on EMR adoption. According to a release from chief advisor Douglas J. Holtz-Eakin, Senator John McCain doesn’t want penalties for physicians who don’t install EMRs; instead, he proposes business incentives for providers to invest in better coordinate care, and suggests that the healthcare system adopt similar strategies as those employed by banks and other sectors in terms of electronic records. According to MRI’s research, Senator Hilary Clinton stated that EMRs are not a luxury in the 21st century, but a necessity. Therefore, she proposes that the U.S. government invest $3 billion per year on EMR adoption and implementation.

Clinton, however, was outbid — by quite a mark. Senator Barack Obama thinks the government should shell out $50 billion over three years to help EMR’s cause.

The reactions from the audience were very interesting. While some criticized McCain’s views for not being proactive or bold enough, others found Clinton and Obama’s ideas to be naïve and impractical. The republican is faulted for being too business-like about an issue involving patient care, while the democrats want to throw money that the government doesn’t have at the problem. And the plot thickens.

Political parties aside, there is another common argument that always seems to rear its head when the topic of EMR implementation is raised. While one side states that implementation can lead to billions of dollars in savings that could significantly help the healthcare crisis, the other side feels that EMR adoption won’t resolve healthcare costs and that politicians are in for a rude awakening if they think that savings will result right away. This argument could likely escalate as the presidential races heat up.

There are several other sub-plots that make the whole picture even more intriguing, including arguments for nationwide e-health guidelines (replacing state mandates), reimbursement reform and the role of corporate America in funding EMRs.

But as good as those side acts are, it’s the headliner that has me waiting in line for tickets. When the subject of health IT — specifically EMR adoption — takes the stage at the presidential debates, I plan to have a front row seat, because it's shaping up to be a great show.

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