Within the first few months of his administration, Obama also plans to push for investment in health information technology as a way to modernize the healthcare system and spur the economy, says Judy Feder, PhD, a professor and former dean of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute and a two-time Democratic congressional candidate who campaigned on a healthcare platform almost identical to the president’s.
Obama says he would like to direct $10 billion a year over the next five years to help the nation’s hospitals and healthcare providers install electronic billing and medical record systems.
“Somebody’s got to help set those up. We’ve got to buy computer systems and so forth. That’s an immediate boost to the economy…but it’s also laying the groundwork for reducing our healthcare costs over the long term,” Obama said in November upon naming Peter Orszag, an economist who regards rising healthcare spending as the nation’s top fiscal threat, director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Hospitals and hospitalists can benefit from IT advancements, but the technology should be slowly phased in to give users time to adjust, which may run counter to the quick economic stimulus Obama is trying to achieve, says David Meltzer, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the department of medicine at the University of Chicago who has conducted considerable research in hospital medicine.
“The point is, health IT takes years to implement,” Dr. Meltzer says. “Just giving grants to buy and set up the equipment isn’t enough. You also want to give grants to prepare people on how to use it effectively.”