Health IT

By Alice Lipowicz

Blog archive

What's the big picture for federal health IT budgets?

If you’ve been curious about President Obama’s proposed federal investment in health information technology in fiscal 2011 but finding it difficult to pin down all the numbers, you’re not alone.

The White House published the budget request on Feb. 1. After three days of combing through the more than a two dozen budget documents, I and other reporters have dug out various details on health IT initiatives at the Health and Human Services, Defense and Veterans Affairs departments.

Two of the top line numbers being widely reported are DOD’s budget for the Defense Health Program’s Information Management and Information Technology account, requested at $1.5 billion, and the VA’s request for medical IT of $1.3 billion.

The VA’s health IT total includes $347 million for the HealtheVet next-generation records system and $929 million for provision of IT infrastructure to VA health centers.

You might assume that with large amounts of dollars at stake, and with Obama’s current emphasis on health IT, the federal officials in charge might have called attention to those numbers and given a few details and full breakdown. But you’d be wrong.

The DOD’s figure is buried on page four in a chart with no explanation, and the VA’s is on page 212 of a 430-page document. So both took some digging to locate, and I have to give Bob Brewin at Nextgov.com credit for locating those valuable figures in an avalanche of data.

But I’d like to get a fuller picture. How about some charts and explanations offering more detail in the health IT proposed expenditures? Do those numbers include the $157 million that the VA has set aside for the DOD-VA interagency office developing the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record? It’s not clear.

But I should not get on VA’s and DOD’s case too much. At least they were proactive and included totals for health IT in their budget documents, albeit without much explanation.

As for HHS' budget request, on the other hand, I’m still looking for a health IT total for the department. I’ve gone through pages and pages of “highlights” and “initiatives” that show a gaggle of programs featuring health IT. These are all very interesting programs. But no where—at least not yet—have I seen a number or chart that gives a total for HHS IT investments and breaks it down into programs. Surely I’m not the only health IT geek out there who wants to see those numbers.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Feb 04, 2010 at 12:14 PM


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