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Beltway scuttlebutt

Scott Young, M.D., director of health information technology at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, is leaving his government post at the end of the month to become executive director of the Kaiser Permanente Care Management Institute. He takes over the job formerly held by Paul Wallace, M.D., on July 24.

Young made a public announcement at AHRQ’s combined patient safety/health IT in Washington this week, part of the first National Health IT Week. Goings-on also include the annual HIMSS Summit.

Wednesday, the crossover day between the two conferences, brought out some Beltway luminaries, including CMS boss Mark McClellan, M.D., Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.). Kennedy and Murphy each urged the health IT community to lobby their representatives to pass legislation that’s been stalled in the House for months.

David Brailer, M.D., who’s still coming to Washington every week—though not on the Sunday-night redeye anymore and not for the whole week—to help the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology wean itself from his direction, also showed up to give a speech. In a roundtable with reporters, he was refreshingly candid, now that he’s free from having to stick to the talking points. I’ll have details later this week, either here or in Health-IT World, depending on what and how I’m in the mood to write tomorrow.

Meantime, here’s the best rumor of the week: Government number-crunchers are saying that Medicare Part A will be insolvent by 2012, six years earlier than the official current projection released just five weeks ago. I don’t have enough confirmation to report it as fact and McClellan denied this, but it should make for interesting conversation and debate.

If true, Medicare insolvency suddenly becomes a front-burner issue in the 2008 campaign, since the next presidential term just happens to includes that 2012 date. The supposed insolvency also would happen before Bush administration’s 2014 target date for interoperable electronic health records. Looking for the “burning platform” to accelerate adoption? I think we may have found one.

June 7, 2006 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Why is this news?

Pretty much all the e-mail news summaries I get—iHealthBeat, “SmartBriefs” from the eHealth Initiative and AHIP, etc.—picked up a May 30 Las Vegas Review-Journal story about a statewide electronic prescribing network in Nevada. It was a good feature piece for a general-interest newspaper.

For healthcare trade publications that like to stay timely, this is what we call a stale story. The Review-Journal reports that the Sierra Health Services-Allscripts program dates to December. That was six months ago, for those of you keeping score at home.

Actually, the partnership goes back even further than that. How do I know? I wrote a piece about this very same program in the Oct. 11, 2005, edition of Health-IT World. I know a lot of the trade press had the same story.

Moving the nation’s healthcare system into the 21st century is a tough job. We need to look forward, not backward.

Stay tuned for my next round of media bashing. I’ve got a good one in the works! I do, however, expect to be sidetracked by the National Health IT Week events in Washington next week.

Now if you will please excuse me, I have a flight to catch.

June 3, 2006 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.