Tech stimulus: $20b for health care records

The White House Stimulus Package contains $37 billion in funding for technology inititatives -- mostly to digitize health records but also for rural broadband and to upgrade the grid.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor on

That $825 billion stimulus package contains a mere $37 billion for tech in three main areas: $20 billion to computerize medical records, $11 billion to create smarter electrical grids and $6 billion to expand high-speed Internet access in rural and underserved communities, The New York Times reports. The tech requests could result in 900,000 jobs in 2009, according to a study produced for the transition team by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

“The appeal of these kinds of investments is that you not only get the stimulative effect but also build a platform for productivity gains and long-term growth,” said Blair Levin, a former senior official at the Federal Communications Commission who was a technology policy adviser on the Obama transition team.

You'll notice that these three areas don't really scream out, "Silicon Valley." Indeed, aside from the scientific/engineering design work at the top, these jobs are pretty much spread out around the country.

“There is a huge implementation phase to the adoption and use of these kinds of technologies locally,” said John Irons, an economist and research director at the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute in Washington. “The jobs involved do tend to span the spectrum of skills and income levels. And they are not going to be outsourced offshore.”

The investment in health records may be a wedge towards health industry reform as well as an important infrastructure improvement.

“Paying to put computer hardware and software in physicians’ offices isn’t going to do anything unless you change the incentives in the system,” said Dr. David J. Brailer, former national health information technology coordinator in the Bush administration.

Those incentives could change rapidly. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced HR 676 for universal health care.

All individuals residing in the United States (including any territory of the United States) are covered under the USNHI Program entitling them to a universal, best quality standard of care. Each such individual shall receive a card with a unique number in the mail. An individual's social security number shall not be used for purposes of registration under this section.

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