Health information technology is largely seen by industry followers as an area that won’t be tampered with too much, if at all, as Republicans go about repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
This can be attributed partly to the presence of new Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Tom Price, who has demonstrated a knack for being knowledgeable about health IT policies.
As a congressman, Price (R-Ga.) introduced the Meaningful Use Hardship Relief Act of 2015 and was a co-sponsor of the FLEX-IT Act, both of which sought to ease the pressure on providers of adopting new health IT technologies (Health Data Management, Feb. 10, 2017).
Price has made no secret of his disdain for healthcare policies enacted under the previous administration. He is credited by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other Republican leaders for providing them a framework for an Obamacare replacement plan in the form of a bill he previously introduced, the Empowering Patients First Act.
But his public comments on health IT so far have chief information officers, data security managers, and others in the tech field feeling good about its prospects.
In a written response to questions from Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Price said that one success he’s seen in healthcare in the last several years is the growth of health IT, electronic health records, and interoperability (Modern Healthcare, March 8, 2017).
Furthermore, Price, who is also a physician, mentioned in his written response that improving health IT interoperability and increasing its scope should be investigated as the industry tries to improve patient engagement.
All this should be taken superficially as Price has just begun his tenure as HHS secretary and could reverse his stance at any time. But health IT is a field that has not been nearly as polarized as others, and while providers do feel the burden of increased IT responsibilities, representative organizations and the payer community want to see an effective, streamlined IT system in place. Price is also seen by the medical community as someone who could reduce some of the regulatory burdens on providers.
So as the Trump administration takes aim at aspects of Obamacare that have been debated more widely, such as the health insurance exchanges, tax credits, and Medicaid expansion, it’s likely health IT programs will continue unabated.
Chris Silva is a senior analyst at DRG and specializes in information technology, telehealth, and big data, among other topics. Follow him on Twitter at @ChrisSilvaDRG.