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Will Obama Name Don Berwick to Lead CMS?

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 29, 2010

Conway mentioned urinary tract infections and pressure ulcers, two common hospital occurrences that will be prevented with changes in reimbursement policies, he says.

The new CMS director will also be expected to drill down to the reasons why the cost of care across the country is so highly variable relative to morbidity and mortality, and thereby gain clues for what healthcare works, and what merely adds to the federal bill. And Berwick has been deeply engrossed in efforts to find the answers.

Conway says Berwick is now working with Elliott Fisher, director of the Center for Health Policy Research at Dartmouth; surgeon Atul Gawande, who wrote the widely read article in The New Yorker, "The Cost Conundrum" last year, and Mark McClellan, MD, CMS administrator from 2004 to 2006.

Whoever takes the job "will have to be visionary, an exquisite collaborator and someone who can show the way," says Conway.

"Berwick would be good if HHS and the President give him the authority and resources to do the job," says Steve Shortell, MD, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley. "Otherwise, he will be very frustrated and quit within a year."

Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

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