Trump’s pick for HHS Secretary has health IT chops
Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-Ga.), President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, is receiving praise from stakeholder groups for his legislative background in health IT policy and efforts to ease burdens on providers struggling with electronic health records.
Jeff Smith, vice president of public policy for the American Medical Informatics Association, believes that Price has a strong history of involvement in HIT policy, stemming from his time as head of the Republican Study Committee and his current role as chairman of the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Health.
“As far as health IT is concerned, Rep. Price introduced the Meaningful Use Hardship Relief Act of 2015 (H.R. 3940) and was an early co-sponsor of the FLEX-IT Act (H.R. 5001),” adds Smith. “In both instances, Rep. Price and his staff demonstrated a strong grasp of the issues impacting clinicians participating in the EHR Incentive Program.”
In his new role as HHS Secretary, Price would bring a wealth of experience in crafting HIT legislation, including the Flexibility in Electronic Health Record Reporting Act, which shortened the Meaningful Use reporting period from one year to just 90 days.
Along with Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Price introduced the bill in the House to ease the burdens on providers in adopting HIT so that they could better focus on patient care. An orthopedic surgeon, he says he knows firsthand the challenges that providers face in implementing and using EHRs.
“Rep. Price has clearly been one of the leaders in Congress focused on addressing concerns with the Meaningful Use program,” says Robert Tennant, director of Health IT Policy at the Medical Group Management Association. “As a physician and a legislator, Dr. Price is well-acquainted with the roadblocks to effective deployment of HIT for clinical and administrative purposes. Once confirmed, we look forward to working with Dr. Price to tackle head-on the many challenges associated with the use of this technology in physician offices and ensuring successful provider participation in the CMS Quality Payment Program.”
When it comes to value-based care, Smith suspects that Price will make good on his reputation as a policy wonk and “may be willing to re-examine ways to push value-based care without some of the bureaucracy, such as our onerous clinical documentation system and our complex electronic quality measurement paradigm.”
Likewise, Robert Horne, executive director of Health IT Now, a coalition of providers, patient advocates, consumers, and payers, contends that Price has a long history advocating for reforms to the healthcare system—including support of health IT.
“His background and leadership on healthcare issues should serve him and HHS very well in the coming years,” Horne concludes. “The membership of Health IT Now has a vision for what IT in healthcare should look like, and we look forward to working with him and his staff to put it into practice.”
In a statement, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society noted that, “as a physician, Chairman Price is uniquely aware of the healthcare challenges facing our nation. He has been an advocate for utilizing health IT to improve health outcomes for patients, while decreasing unnecessary burden on providers.
“HIMSS anticipates the same straightforward, thoughtful approach during his tenure at HHS, where he will be responsible for implementing value-based care delivery solutions and advancing medical research and care delivery models that produce 21st Century results. During our many engagements with Chairman Price at HIMSS conferences and meetings, and as a congressional supporter of the HIMSS Foundation’s Institute for e-Health Policy education sessions on health IT solutions, we have found Chairman Price to be an advocate and an ally to those transforming healthcare.”
“Rep. Tom Price has been at the forefront of advancing important reforms to the nation’s health IT policy landscape,” affirmed Russell Branzell, president and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. “He was a leader in pushing for greater flexibility in the Meaningful Use program, including the 90-day reporting period. The shorter reporting period is a more realistic timeframe and will help hospitals stay focused on optimizing electronic health record systems for improved patient care. Dr. Price was also instrumental in 2015 in extending the timeline for providers to apply for hardship exemptions under the Meaningful Use program.”
Last month, after the release of the final MACRA rule by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Price and other members of the House Congressional Doctors Caucus sent a letter to the agency and the Office of Management and Budget urging CMS to carefully address a number of multi-layered, high-level concerns that physicians will face on Jan. 1, 2017, under the new payment system established through MACRA.
“This final rule deserves careful scrutiny in light of the serious concerns members of the Congressional Doctors Caucus raised… in our letter to CMS on its proposed MACRA regulation," said Price. "We are deeply concerned about how this rule could affect the patient-doctor relationship, and I look forward to carefully reviewing it in the coming days to determine whether the Administration has addressed those concerns and put the interests of patients first.”