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Kolodner on ONC

I just ran into Dr. Robert Kolodner at the HIMSS conference. As you know, Kolodner was the second national coordinator for health IT, serving from 2006 to 2009. While he doesn’t have any insight on who might be the next head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology—or if he does, he’s not sharing—he did put the decision into perspective.

The first coordinator, Dr. David Brailer, was kind of the entrepreneur, starting up the office with little money and no statutory authority, just what President George W. Bush delegated to him in an executive order. Kolodner was the one who “made it real” in terms of hiring permanent staff and setting up programs to assure the long-term viability of the office. The current coordinator, Dr. David Blumenthal, who will leave in April, is the policy guy, leader of efforts to implement the health IT provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The question Kolodner has for the Obama administration is: What qualities should the next coordinator have? Do we need another policy specialist or a hands-on implementation leader?

February 22, 2011 I Written By

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

The dirty little secret about ‘Blue Button’

Since last summer, various government agencies, notably the Department of Veterans Affairs, have been touting the Blue Button Initiative as an easy way of  sharing electronic data with patients. Just click the blue button in the patient EHR portal and download data into a personal health record or a printout. Sounds simple enough.

Late yesterday, my successor at a publication I was the primary writer of until late last year, cited the importance of the Blue Button, particularly when coupled with Microsoft’s HealthVault PHR platform. (If I turned in my story as late as 4:52 p.m. for that client, I would have been docked at least $150, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The fact that HealthVault and other “untethered” PHRs are non-starters when it comes to the public notwithstanding, Blue Button has a serious, perhaps fatal flaw. It outputs data in unstructured text form that’s not easily readable by an EHR. There’s no Continuity of Care Record, no Continuity of Care Document, no form of Clinical Document Architecture at all.

Just. Plain. Text.

One techie doctor I know calls this data essentially useless.

UPDATE 10 a.m. EST: The techie doctor I mentioned is Dr. Enoch Choi of Palo Alto Medical Foundation, per his comment below. He tweeted about this last month.

I Written By

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