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House chamber

by Meg Marshall
Published on February 6, 2019

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

In his second State of the Union address, President Donald Trump tackled significant issues currently facing the United States. His proposals for government action and statements of policy goals reflected a call for unity and bipartisan collaboration to advance solutions addressing a broad agenda, including immigration, infrastructure and health care.

Health care topped voters’ minds during the 2018 mid-term elections and will likely be a significant issue for the upcoming 2020 elections. Yesterday’s address wasn’t the first time we’ve heard from this administration on topics such as health care and drug costs, price transparency and addressing the opioid crisis.

Here are four key health care takeaways from President Trump’s State of the Union address:

1. HIV and pediatric cancer funding

High on Trump’s list is a plan to stop transmission of HIV by 2030. An estimated 1.1 million in the U.S. have HIV, of which approximately 15 percent do not know they are infected. The president is committed to providing funding in his budget request to eliminate the HIV epidemic in America within the next 10 years.

Additionally, the president acknowledged 10-year-old Grace Eline, who sat next to First Lady Melania Trump in the gallery. Grace was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year and underwent radiation. However, the president suggested new therapies to treat pediatric cancers are needed. He committed to supporting research through his budget request which will include $500 million over 10 years.

2. Opioid crisis

President Trump mentioned the bill he signed into law last fall that marked significant bipartisan efforts by the White House and Congress to curb the ongoing crisis.

The use of health IT tools, such as analytics and clinical decision support, are a vital piece of the puzzle in the fight against opioid abuse. From improved patient-level data organization and easier prescription tracking to identifying geographic areas with a prevalence of opioid abuse, electronic solutions can help address the epidemic. When clinicians have the right data in near real-time, they are better equipped to identify at-risk individuals and anticipate the effects of their prescription decisions. When opioid use disorder patterns can be predicted across populations, experts can use these actionable insights to better address the needs of that given population.

Last year, Cerner CEO Brent Shafer introduced a new suite of advancements intended to help clients win the battle against the opioid epidemic. The Opioid Toolkit offers a blend of increased access and analysis of existing data, as well as clinical decision support personalized for each individual. It includes several resources, such as an alert to providers if a patient has an opioid treatment agreement with another physician. For about a decade, Cerner has been investing in work to curb the opioid epidemic and the Opioid Toolkit is an extension of Cerner’s commitment to solving this issue.

3. Prescription drug prices

Addressing prescription drug costs is a priority for the president. During his remarks, Trump suggested Americans often pay more for the same drugs than people in other countries. He furthered his statement by asking Congress to pass legislation related to global freeloading. This comes at a time when the administration recently released two proposals on rebates and a proposal to test tying certain Medicare drug reimbursements to an International Pricing Index. We’ve also seen an increased interest from Congress on the issue as they’ve already held initial hearings on the topic and have invited witnesses to testify at future hearings.

4. Price transparency

As patients become more active in their health care, transparency regarding cost of services, procedures and drugs should facilitate value-based decisions. Congress and the administration have become increasingly involved in the drive toward more transparency. As part of rules that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finalized last year, hospitals must list their prices online in a “machine-readable” format. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also proposed a rule that would require manufacturers to include drug cost information in direct-to-consumer television advertisements. In Congress, interest has turned to surprise medical billing with members discussing ways to address the issue from a legislative angle. The administration held a roundtable in January on the topic.

Price transparency is more important than ever as it empowers consumers to be proactive in their own care alongside their care team. Access to pricing information allows health care providers to further engage with their patients, offering accurate information on the most cost-effective and appropriate treatment to fit their needs.

Using open APIs, software developers can build applications to create more consumer-friendly experiences and smarter workflows for doctors. This will lead to individualized health care experiences and better outcomes. Additionally, the issue of social determinants of health underscores the importance of consumer engagement and caring for the whole patient.

These issues have been priorities of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who continues to address them regularly in his public comments. Now, it’s a matter of finding areas of bipartisan agreement on each of these substantial topics.  

Health IT and EHRs play a critical role in the delivery system reform necessary to reduce costs and increase patient outcomes. Value-based care models are data-driven by the nature of measuring value and quality of services. Ensuring the data is comprehensive and provides a complete picture is vital for improving the overall health care experience.

Health care in the U.S. is rapidly evolving, and Cerner is leading the charge by way of provider-based, research-based and policy-based clinical and financial IT solutions. Learn more here.