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Health IT May Find Vehicle In 2009 Stimulus

Health care reform was a major focus in 2008 presidential campaign, with electronic medical records mentioned as one of many ways to improve the system. In a recent press conference about the economy, President-elect Obama called for an immediate stimulus, naming health-care modernization as one possible avenue for short- and long-term growth.

However, the infrastructure needed to adopt health IT fully is expensive, which has deterred small physicians’ offices and larger cash-strapped facilities. Legislation introduced in the 110th Congress proposed tax breaks to help pay for the equipment. In the meantime, patient advocacy groups worried about implementing enough protections in order to prevent privacy breaches. Other experts pushed for a standardized system that could be used nationwide.

“Now, somebody's got to help set [this] up,” Obama said. “We've got to buy computers, systems and so forth. That's an immediate boost to the economy, in some cases, working with state and local governments. But it's also laying the groundwork for reducing our health-care costs over the long term.”

There has been no formal number given to the cost of implementing nationwide health IT. During his campaign, President-elect Obama proposed spending $50 billion on such an overhaul. However, he and his team have been adamant that health care reform is one piece of the pie when it comes to revamping the economy.

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