President Bush Promotes Electronic Medical Records in Tennessee Appearance
President Bush on Thursday discussed his plan to encourage the adoption of electronic medical records systems during an appearance at Vanderbilt University following a visit to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, where he had been shown a demonstration of an EMR system, the Tennessean reports (de la Cruz/Cass, Tennessean, 5/28). Bush last month promoted a proposal to establish a national EMR system and issued an executive order to create a national health information technology office within HHS. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on May 6 at an HHS health information technology summit said that establishing an electronic medical records system could save the United States at least $140 billion per year. Thompson promised summit attendees that the federal government would implement a national EMR system in fewer than 10 years (California Healthline, 5/7). "One of the amazing discrepancies in American society today is we're literally changing how medicine is delivered in incredibly positive ways, and yet docs are still spending a lot of time writing things on paper -- and sometimes it's hard to read their handwriting," Bush said, adding, "Sometimes it's difficult to have the spread of accurate information so that doctors can make good decisions" (Benedetto, USA Today, 5/28). Bush, who has focused on "smaller" health care issues since passing the Medicare bill last year, such as improving community health centers, said a "big government approach [to health care] is not the way to go," the New York Post reports. "The federal government cannot run the system" as efficiently as medical professionals, Bush said (Blomquist, New York Post, 5/28). Thompson, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and patients who had benefited from EMR systems appeared on stage with Bush before an audience of 1,100, half of whom had been invited by the White House (Tennessean, 5/28).
The discussion of health care information technology is part of a "coordinated effort between the White House and the Bush-Cheney campaign to appeal to suburban swing voters who are technologically savvy," the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, Bush has recently focused on expanding his health care message beyond Medicare to reach voters in their thirties and forties. The taxpayer-funded, "talk-show-style" event's "political overtones were obvious," suggesting that the White House "wanted a policy event to produce favorable news coverage in Tennessee," the Post reports. Bush's Tennessee visit also included a GOP fund-raising event that brought in $1.7 million (Allen, Washington Post, 5/28). Frist said Bush came to the state because, "He's committed to health care, he's committed to information technology, he's committed to making others' lives more fulfilling" (USA Today, 5/28).
Democrats recently have "sought to embarrass the White House" by highlighting aspects of Bush's budget this year that would freeze some grants that benefit hospitals (Washington Post, 5/28). Randy Button, chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, said Bush's speech was meant to "'disguise' the true reason for his trip, the fund-raiser," USA Today reports (USA Today, 5/28). Officials for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) said Bush is "focusing on small issues at the expense of larger problems," such as rising health costs and the state of the uninsured (Riechmann, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/27). Kerry campaign spokesperson Anthony Coley said that Bush "has turned his back on thousands of Tennesseans struggling with high health insurance, and he's overseen the largest increase in health care costs in 25 years" (Tennessean, 5/28). Although Bush won the state by 4% in 2000, recent polls have shown him to be in a statistical tie with Kerry (USA Today, 5/28). NPR's "All Things Considered" on Thursday reported on Bush's comments on health care IT, which "didn't grab the public's attention" as much as announcements about potential terrorism threats. The segment includes comments from Attorney General John Ashcroft, Bush, and Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (Gonyea, "All Things Considered," NPR, 5/27). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.