23 Mar HHS and Obama Administration names Blumenthal as Health Information Technology Coordinator
MADISON – A Boston based physician will lead the President’s health information technology (HIT) vision. The Department of Health and Human Services today announced the selection of David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P. as the Obama Administration’s choice for National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. As the National Coordinator, Dr. Blumenthal will lead the implementation of a nationwide interoperable, privacy-protected health information technology infrastructure as called for in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Blumenthal most recently served as the Director of the Institute for Health Policy and a physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Partners HealthCare System in Boston, Massachusetts. He was also Professor of Medicine and Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School.
From 1987-1991 he was Senior Vice President at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a 720-bed Harvard teaching hospital. From 1981 to 1987 he was Executive Director of the Center for Health Policy and Management and Lecturer on Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. During the late 1970s, Dr. Blumenthal was a professional staff member on Senator Edward Kennedy’s Senate Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research.
“President Obama believes we must take serious steps to modernize our health care system in order to improve the health of all Americans, bring down costs and ensure sustained long-term economic growth. Health information technology is a critical part of the President’s strategy to reform our health care system and as one of the nation’s leading health information technology experts, Dr. Blumenthal has the experience and the vision to help make this effort a reality,” said HHS spokeswoman Jenny Backus in a press release.
“As a practicing physician and a leading scholar on health information technology, Dr. Blumenthal is uniquely qualified to help America’s doctors, nurses, hospitals, and patients reap the benefits of a modernized health system. Dr. Blumenthal shares President Obama’s commitment to investing in a health IT infrastructure that will protect patient privacy, and improve both quality and efficiency in our nation’s health care system,” said Backus.
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle who referred to Wisconsin’s as the home of Epic, GE Healthcare and Marshfield Clinic’s Cattails said, “Wisconsin is a leader in health information technology, and is home to three of the leading providers of electronic medical records systems. With better use of information technology, we can transform our health care system to improve the safety and quality of our health care.”
“We congratulate Dr. Blumenthal on his appointment,” said Mark Segal, director of government and industry affairs, GE Healthcare IT. “He is exceptionally well qualified and understands the importance of a national investment in health care information technology and the benefit to quality improvement and cost reduction.”
“GE Healthcare looks forward to working with Dr. Blumenthal and the Office of the National Coordinator as they implement the healthcare IT provisions of the economic stimulus package,” said Segal. “We will be available to contribute based on our deep experience in health information standards and policy and the depth and breadth of our experienceÂ with health care IT products and customers.”
Dr. Barry Chaiken, MD, MPH who served as Associate Chief Medical Officer for BearingPoint as well as Vice President, Medical Affairs for McKesson Corporation said, “Dr. Blumenthal’s top three priorities should be to educate health care reform policy makers on the current capabilities and limitations of HIT, so they can leverage these tolls in their health care reform plans.” Chaiken added, “The National Coordinator should expedite the finalizing of standards that can lead to interoperability both through HITSP and CCHIT, as well as supporting the widespread adoption of HIT to allows for its use in health care reform.”
More recently, Dr. Blumenthal served as a senior health adviser to the Obama for America campaign. Dr. Blumenthal has extensively researched the dissemination of health information technology, quality management in health care, the determinants of physician behavior, access to health services, and the extent and consequences of academic-industrial relationships in the health sciences.
“I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to serve President Obama and the American people in the effort to harness the power of health information technology to modernize our health care system,” said Dr. Blumenthal in a prepared statement. “As a primary care physician who has used an electronic record to care for patients every day for 10 years, I understand the enormous potential of this technology. President Obama has laid out a vision of health reform that is both inspiring and long overdue. We cannot make that vision a reality without the help of our most advanced computer technology.”
Dr. Chaiken, the current Chief Medical Officer of DocsNetwork said, “With President Obama choosing Dr. Blumenthal as the new leader of the Office of the National Commissioner, he has clearly made a statement that health care reform remains at the forefront of his policy aims. Rather than choosing an informatics expert, the President chose a policy expert who understands the role of HIT in transforming health care. This is a strong statement by the Obama administration that it sees HIT as a tool rather than a solution to our health care crisis. I applaud this choice as necessary clinical transformation can only come through policy changes supported by HIT.”
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes a $19.5 billion investment in health information technology, which will save money, improve quality of care for patients, and make our health care system more efficient. Dr. Blumenthal will lead the effort at HHS to modernize the health care system by catalyzing the adoption of interoperable health information technology by 2014 thereby reducing health costs for the federal government by an estimated $12 billion over 10 years.
Stephen Lieber, president and CEO of the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) said, “All of the Society’s members represent stakeholders who will implement, and be impacted by, the ARRA’s requirements. These healthcare professionals have worked with the initiatives introduced and implemented by the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP) and the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT), activities that we encourage Dr. Blumenthal to continue for the realization of the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN).”Â
“We look forward to working with Dr. Blumenthal and his team at the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC). We also recognize and express appreciation to Dr. Robert Kolodner for his leadership and guidance during his tenure as the National Coordinator for Health IT, “ said Lieber.
According to Chaiken, who is also incoming Chair of HIMMS said, “Dr. Blumenthal will need to to deal with the legal and regulatory barriers to a developing the NHIN as well as the adoption of HIT. This is related to continuing to involve all stakeholders and working to finalize standards for interoperability. Before we build this highway for health information, let’s not forget to be sure we have the cars (EMRs, etc.) and traffic rules (data standards) necessary to allow a smooth exchange of information. There is a lot of work to be done.This is related to continuing to involve all stakeholders and working to finalize standards for interoperability. Continued work is necessary by the HITSP and CCHIT. Before we build this highway for health information, let’s not forget to be sure we have the cars (EMRs, etc.) and traffic rules (data standards) necessary to allow a smooth exchange of information. There is a lot of work to be done.”
WTN News asked Dr. Chaiken how the national coordinator will get the major vendors to the table and open up their application programming interfaces (API’s) and achieve interoperability. Chaiken responded, “Perhaps we are reaching the tipping point that the banking industry reached decades ago. They too had proprietary financial systems but eventually saw the greater benefit of interoperability. Health care reform is more of a threat to the status quo than interoperability. The Obama administration is pushing hard for reform and it will happen in some form. With so much money available for HIT due to ARRA, vendors will soon understand the upside is greater in working with the government on interoperability and securing market share as quickly as possible, than being obstructionist.”
Dr. Blumenthal served as executive director for The Commonwealth Fund Task Force on the Future of Academic Health Centers and chairman of the board of the Massachusetts Peer Review Organization. He is the founding chairman of the Academy for Health Services Research and Health Policy, the national organization of health services researchers. Dr.Blumenthal also served as Director of the Harvard University Interfaculty Program for the Improvement of Health Care Policy and Systems.
His research interests include the future of academic health centers under health care reform, quality management in health care, the determinants of physician behavior, access to health services, and the extent and consequences of academic-industrial relationships in the health sciences.