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Blumenthal Spearheads Health IT Reform

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media, March 23, 2009

In a potentially revealing look into what is to come, Blumenthal and Morone wrote that "speed is essential" for healthcare reform, highlighting Johnson's fast action in 1965 compared to President Bill Clinton's slower healthcare reform movement in 1993.

Health IT and healthcare officials praised Blumenthal's appointment as the right person for the job.

Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, director of the Center for Connected Health at Partners HealthCare System, has worked with Blumenthal at Partners. Kvedar says Blumenthal brings experience in both policy and research related to how health IT affects patient care. "I think the Obama administration is sending a very clear signal that [health IT] is a very high priority item. They couldn't have chosen a more talented, qualified individual to head this up," he says.

Vince Kuraitis, principal at Better Health Technologies in Boise, ID, says Blumenthal recognizes the "critical importance of interoperability" and he understands that provider payment reform and health IT reform are "inextricably linked."

"He understands the necessity to get the market to adopt standards for data exchange. Specifying standards are only a first step toward adoption of standards. The federal government can play a critical role as catalyst and market organizer. He recognizes that [electronic medical records] EMRs are a means, not an end in and of themselves. He understands that providers need to be incentivized and rewarded for improving quality and outcomes by using EMRs, not simply rewarded for purchasing EMRs," says Kuraitis.

On his blog, Life as a Healthcare CIO, John D. Halamka, MD, MS, chief information officer of the CareGroup Health System and chief information officer and dean for technology at Harvard Medical School, called Blumenthal an "icon in the Massachusetts community."

"He's created numerous organizations, collaborations, and study groups to better understand the effective use of information technology in healthcare. . . He's advised presidents. He understands the need to create policy and technology in parallel," wrote Halamka.

David C. Kibbe, MD, MBA, principal of The Kibbe Group, LLC, in Pittsboro, N.C., and senior advisor for the Center for Health Information Technology at American Academy of Family Physicians, says he is confident that Blumenthal will find a way to deploy health IT that "makes the outcomes of technology the main objective."

"He brings a background of health services research and policy study to an area of healthcare, the uses of information technology, that has received a great deal of hyperbolic cheerleading from certain quarters, but which has not been well connected to health reform policy objectives, such as improvement in quality, safety, or cost," he adds.


Les Masterson is senior editor of Health Plan Insider. He can be reached at lmasterson@healthleadersmedia.com.

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