Why no mention of EHRs in the State of the Union?

I’m always interested in hearing what a president’s State of the Union wish list is going to include. If you get one big shot to name everything you want to accomplish in the next year, what would you say? Cure cancer? Start a colony on Mars? Put a chicken in every pot? Expand the use of electronic medical records to reduce the number of medical errors?

NEMT Communications Director Tara Courtland

That last one was not on President Obama’s list this year and I found it interesting because I’d heard it mentioned a lot in previous State of the Union addresses.

Bush mentioned electronic health records in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Obama mentioned them in 2009 and 2011. Strangely, the one year that health records got no mention was 2010 in the midst of the fight over health care reform.

Of course, it’s always been just a handful of words tossed into the mix, but a handful of words in the State of the Union is no small thing.

So why nothing this year? Is it because federal involvement in EHRs is a done deal and there’s nothing else for a president to say?

I hope so.

During the debt ceiling crisis over the summer, I was worried that EHR incentive funding might end up getting cut. When Congress voted in August to appoint a supercommittee to slash future spending, I was even more worried.

But then something happened in the American mindset. The tide of public opinion started shifting away from “the deficit is the economy’s biggest problem and the government must stop all spending already” and more toward “everything BUT the deficit is the economy’s biggest problem and the government must get some money flowing down here already.”

That is to say, the Tea Party went out and the Occupy movement came in.

Deficits have gotten barely a mention in the public arena since about Halloween. Now that could change, but until it does, I’m no longer worried about funding for healthcare information technology.

(Yes, we’ve got a list of State of the Union references to EHRs. Click here for all of the excerpts)



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About Tara Courtland

Tara Courtland is the communications director at NEMT.
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