Bluementhal is new health IT czar

David Blumenthal, known slightly more for being a policy wonk than a geek (or perhaps known best for being a wonk about geek issues!), has been appointed the new Director of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. No official word on Rob Kolodner’s new role, although John Halamka suggests that he’ll stay on to run the stimulus package. Don’t forget that ONC gets $2 billion as part of the HITECH bill, so someone needs to be there to manage the bureaucratic part of that.

And no, none of the five candidates pimped on THCB by Kibbe and Klepper got the job…I’m sure we’ll hear from them about Blumenthal shortly.

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10 replies »

  1. Just read the list of candidates suggested by the posting in this weblog a while back.
    Mr. Bosworth seems to be the one with the necessary technical savvy.
    My usual pitch on the topic is for the federal government to find a sponsor – along the lines of the Apache Software Foundation – to develop a FOSS EMR/PM system.
    The PatientOS system – still in development but still currently usable – would be an excellent start. eClinicalWorks might even be willing to donate its source code. Stranger things have happened.
    Not only that but any investment of public funds could be truly minimal – say in the tens of millions at most – whatever can get the ball rolling quickly. The impact of offering a FOSS product is that it would almost immediately bring down the exorbitantly high prices for most EMR/PM products whether those aimed at hospitals or physicians practices. It would also develop rapidly into one of the leading software options by virtue of the magic of the open-source development paradigm.
    Commercial products could co-exist just as say WebSphere co-exists with JBoss or Geronimo for Java application servers or Oracle’s Database 11g and Microsoft SQL co-existing with MySQL for relational database management software or any number of other examples.
    I do not know anything about Dr. Blumenthal aside from the background published at the time of his appointment, but I suspect he is a very bright, knowledgeable and experienced person. He appears to lack the technical, nuts-and-bolts knowledge that someone like Mr. Bosworth has. That is a important quality, as important as – but in conjunction with – in-depth knowledge of the dynamics and structure of the healthcare system and a knowledge of the psychology and practical needs of users (physicians primarily) of any software tool.

  2. Is Dr. Blumenthal one who can inspire and lead physicians into a better system, or will he more inclined to ass-u-me that physicians can be forced?
    Does Dr. Blumenthal have experience in the settings of smaller, independent practices (where most care is delivered), or does his experience base come primarily from larger systems that have larger IT departments and larger IT budgets?
    What little I know about him leads me to believe his end goals are admirable. My concern is related to whether or not he understands what means are likely to succeed.

  3. Hmmm. And where does the patient stand in this anticipated development in the medical business, or is this simply about streamlined billing for improved physician-insurance profit? On taxpayer-patient dime, no less.

  4. No, Matthew, you won’t be hearing from me about David Blumenthal, except in this comment. He’s a fine choice for this position, a professional who has the experience and skills to connect investments in health IT with health care payment reform such that they complement each other. Regards, DCK

  5. He is also a practicing clinician (internist) with lengthy, practical experience with clinical IT, perhaps the best qualification of all. He has broad bandwidth and a wealth of contacts across the field. This was a superb choice!

  6. Blumenthal appears to by sympathetic to cats (incumbents who say: “have the doctors just show the sales receipt and reimburse them for acquiring technology) AND supportive of dogs (innovators who say: “reward quality and outcome improvements, not acquisition of technology”).

  7. I had the opportunity to work with David Blumenthal recently when I served on an expert panel for the health IT adoption studies. He has a deep understanding of applied health IT and, even more important, how clinicians interact with these systems in the real world. This is great news for everyone interested in advancing the use of health IT to improve quality, safety, and cost efficiency.