At the opening of the AMGA's March 2009 annual conference in Las Vegas, however, Kirkland sang a different tune, explaining how congressional staffers reached out to the AMGA while drafting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus law. This led to the inclusion of an $18,000 subsidy for physicians who adopt information technology, Kirkland said. "If this doesn't excite you," he added, "ask a doctor to check your pulse.”
That line has since come to haunt the otolaryngologist as he seeks the Republican nomination in the Aug. 5 primary for Tennessee's 8th Congressional District.
“Electronic medical records reduce costs long-term, help reduce medical errors, and better serve every patient in America,” Kirkland said in a June 15 Facebook post. “But they are very expensive to implement. A tax credit to incentivize this needed change is a good public policy goal and a very conservative solution to improve healthcare. Incentives, not mandates. That is the conservative way."
He continued: “AMGA succeeded in obtaining this incentive in the Stimulus bill. While I opposed the stimulus bill, I thought this one-time tax incentive was good policy and defended it.”
The post goes on to say that we are facing “the bankruptcy of America” and that, along with eliminating wasteful spending, “we also need to do without the good things that we don't truly need.”
“Friends, the spending must end,” Kirkland said. “The bailouts, the ridiculous stimulus plans, the outrageous farm subsidies to big corporations, and, yes, even small incentives for electronic medical records. We must end them now!”
Kirkland spokesman Brent Leatherwood said Kirkland still supports the use of EMRs but feels that “now is not the best time to be spending money on this.”
“He knows EMRs save lives,” Leatherwood said. “It's a matter of priorities, and the biggest priority right now is stopping the out-of-control spending.”
Leatherwood noted that the Jackson Clinic is a longtime user of EMRs. According to a May 6 news release issued by EMR vendor Allscripts, Jackson Clinic has used electronic health records for more than a decade and recently upgraded its system.
“We have been using an EHR system for over 10 years, so we understand how crucial it is to have instant access to the patient's medical history, which enables our physicians to make better decisions at the point of care,” Keith Williams, Jackson Clinic medical director, said in the news release.
The release also mentioned that the clinic “aims to demonstrate 'meaningful use' " and "expects to qualify for more than $4 million from the federal EHR stimulus program approved by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009."