Jeff Rowe, Editor, Future Care

Jeff Rowe is the editor of Future Care and a veteran healthcare journalist and blogger who has reported extensively on initiatives to improve the healthcare system at the local, regional and national level.

HHS nominee weighs in on EHRs and possibilities of precision medicine

January 20, 2017 AT 4:26 PM

All eyes today are bound to be on the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, but for healthcare stakeholders the more practically relevant event may have been the first time the public has heard from Georgia Rep. Tom Price since he was nominated to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

To be sure, there’s been no shortage of questions regarding the possibility that Rep. Price violated financial ethical guidelines through various stock transactions, and his views on Obamacare and related issues have been amply discussed as well. But for most observers his thoughts on EHRs and precision medicine, for example, may have been unknown until his confirmation hearing earlier this week.

On EHRs, for example, Price said, "Electronic health records are so important because, from an innovation standpoint they allow the patient to have their health history with them at all times and be able to allow whatever physician or provider to have access to that.”

With that general support articulated, Price then gave a glimpse at what his likely priority for HHS will be, noting, “We in the federal government have a role  . . ., but that role ought to be interoperability: to make sure the different systems can talk to each other so it inures to the benefit of the patient.”

Regarding the EHR Incentive Program specifically, Price echoed what many providers have said. ”I’ve had more than one physician tell me that the final rules and regulations related to meaningful use were the final straw for them. And they quit. And they've got no more gray hair than you or I have. And when that happens we lose incredible intellectual capital in our society.”

As for what a Secretary Price might do about the frustration many providers feel, "I think what's absolutely imperative is to find out what things ought to be determined and checked, the metrics that are used – that they actually correlate with the quality of care that's being provided as opposed to so many things that are required right now of the physician or the provider that make is so they're wasting their time documenting these things so that it sits in some matrix somewhere but doesn't result in a higher quality of care or outcomes for that patient.”

Finally, there were questions about Price’s view of the possibilities of precision medicine.
We’re entering a brave new world that is so exciting from a scientific standpoint," he said. "To be able to provide this sort of personalized healthcare to folks, we'll be able to cure things that we never dreamed about curing. The challenges of how we afford to be able to make that available to our society are real, and I think we need to get the best minds together to make that happen.”