President Donald Trump's proposed $4 trillion budget for next year calls for a $15.1 billion reduction for HHS, an approximately 18% spending cut. Those cuts will reverberate into the health IT sector, with the CMS receiving $636 billion less over the next 10 years, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology receiving $22 million less.
These cuts have many in the health IT industry worried that progress toward healthcare interoperability will be halted, or even reversed. According to the ONC, the budget cuts would force the office to eliminate the Health IT Adoption program, which assists with EHR implementation, and the Consumer eHealth program, which encourges patients to engage with digital health data, among other programs.
Here, five healthcare leaders talk about what the budget cuts might mean for the industry.
1) Dr. Farzad Mostashari, CEO of Aledade and former national coordinator for health IT
"There's no way around saying that if you cut the budget by 36%, there's going to be no impact on the ability of the federal government to be coordinated and for the industry to move more quickly towards interoperability. I think it would be a shame if those budget cuts went through as proposed, and I think it would have a real impact in slowing down the progress that could be made. I'm hopeful that Congress will continue to fund ONC at the correct levels."
2) Peter Kilbridge, senior research director of the Advisory Board Co.
"The proposed 36% gouge to ONC is really tough—ONC is supposed to be scaling up their efforts to promote interoperability, but these cuts would require letting go something like a dozen staffers. The proposed large cut to the AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) budget would significantly cripple health services research in an era where we're supposed to be studying how to make care more efficient and affordable."
3) Lynne Thomas Gordon, CEO of the American Health Information Management Association
"We are disappointed by the administration's proposed cuts to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. The bipartisan passage of the Cures Act by Congress last year made clear that investment in our nation's health IT infrastructure is critically important if we are to advance new drugs and devices and fully realize the benefits of a learning healthcare system. ONC is a critical partner in this endeavor. We hope that as congressional appropriators draft the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bills for fiscal year 2018, they will ensure that ONC is properly funded and signal their commitment to meeting the goals of the 21st Century Cures Act."
4) Clint Phillips, CEO of Medici
"Anyone resisting budget cuts hasn't faced our U.S. financial reality. However, the ONC budget cuts could potentially raise healthcare costs by limiting the desperately needed improvement in interoperability and infrastructure. This is needed to solve the information silos that are crushing healthcare innovation."
5) Brent Lang, CEO of Vocera Communications
"The healthcare market is ripe for innovation, and funding for training programs and innovation is vital for the healthcare industry to adapt and transform."