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Poll for new national coordinator is rather laughable

Leave it to those in the ivory tower of Modern Healthcare to screw up something as simple as an unscientific poll about who should be the next national coordinator for health IT.  The poll lists a whopping two dozen names, ranging from the obvious—Dr. John Halamka, Dr. Paul Tang, current deputy national coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari—to the dark horse—Dr. Robert Hitchcock of T-System, Paula Gregory of the “Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicince” (sic)—and even a few laughable listings.

For one thing, Dr. David Brailer is on the list. The first national coordinator (2004-06) left Washington because he wanted to be with his family in San Francisco. He’s currently running a $700 million equity investment firm and couldn’t possibly want to get back into the political game, could he? Besides, he’s a Republican. Dr. William Hersh, CMIO of Oregon Health and Science University, would make a good choice, but he’s already said he doesn’t want the job.

Another choice is current CMS Adminstrator Dr. Donald Berwick. Dirty politics is about to force him out, and if that happens, you can bet he won’t want to be within 400 miles of Washington. (Hey, that just happens to be the distance to his home in the Boston area.) I’m really steamed about the Berwick situation, and am preparing  a separate post that hopefully will go up tomorrow.

Modern Healthcare also includes Janet Marchibroda, who’s identified as chief healthcare officer of IBM. Sorry, but Marchibroda, former CEO of the eHealth Initiative, left IBM last year. My sources tell me she’s now working at ONC, serving as de facto chief of staff to current coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal. (Blumenthal, as you no doubt know, is leaving in April.)

Missing from the long list of names is Johns Hopkins CIO Stephanie Reel, who won in a landslide the equally informal, unscientific poll that HIStalk ran a couple weeks ago. HIStalk did report, though, that Allscripts effectively stuffed the ballot box. Also not included is Blumenthal’s predecessor, Dr. Robert Kolodner, but he doesn’t want to go back, either.

I’m not going to run another survey here (hey, I doubt I have the readership to make it worthwhile anyway), but I’m curious if people think a non-physician could or should be national coordinator.

March 10, 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.

Kolodner retires from federal government

Former national health IT coordinator and longtime Department of Veterans Affairs informatics leader Robert Kolodner, M.D., is retiring from the federal government today.

Here’s an excerpt of a note he sent out today:

I am writing to let you know that today is my last day as a federal employee, after 31 gratifying years in public service.

What started out for me as a one year transition from residency into private practice took an unexpected turned into the opportunity of a lifetime. Notwithstanding the occasional challenges along the way, there is no other career path I would rather have pursued.

I am humbled by the superb quality of the people with whom I have had the good fortune to know and work with in the federal government. And I have been very impressed that we have a “deep bench” in federal service, with excellent people stepping up again and again to carry on, and even surpass, the work and the vision of the previous wave of leaders and key staff.

I am delighted to not only to have had the honor to serve our nation’s veterans for almost three decades, and be able to help them in their time of need after so many of them put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf, but also to have had the privilege of participating in VA-wide and nationwide activities to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of patient-centered health care. Hopefully, this time we will finally succeed in achieving sufficient health reform to trigger the transformations in health and care that we so desperately need in the U.S.

Over the years, I’ve done my best to reinforce and contribute to the understanding that the advances we have been pursuing in health IT have not been about technology, nor even primarily about health care, but instead have been – and are still – about improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.

Thank you for your friendship and collegial contributions over these past years. It has been a pleasure to know and work with all of you over the years, and I hope that our paths cross again in the not too distant future. I wish all the best to you in your noble pursuits – especially those of you who are doing so as federal employees.


September 22, 2009 I Written By

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

Blumenthal named national coordinator

Well, Robert Kolodner, M.D., won’t be keeping his job as national coordinator for health IT after all. That’s because the Obama administration today named Harvard University medical informaticist David Blumenthal, M.D., to lead the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Blumenthal, director of the Institute for Health Policy at Partners HealthCare System in Boston, was a senior advisor to Barack Obama during the presidential campaign and years ago was an aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), so this sounds like a clear political move. Kolodner was a career professional at the Department of Veterans Affairs prior to taking over at ONC in 2006, and Healthcare IT News reports that he likely will be going back to the VA.

March 20, 2009 I Written By

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

Podcast: Dr. Robert Kolodner on the national HIT strategy

I love the annual Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS) Physician-Computer Connection. It’s a chance to hear some of the smartest and most accomplished people in healthcare, namely medical informaticists, in a small, informal setting. This year’s event, held last week in beautiful, laid-back Ojai, Calif., featured an appearance by Robert Kolodner, M.D., the national coordinator for health information technology.

After Dr. Kolodner’s presentation—more of a Q&A with his peers in medical informatics—he graciously sat down for an audio interview with me. Here is the result.

Podcast details: Robert Kolodner, M.D., on the national health IT strategy. Recorded July 16, 2008, in Ojai, Calif. MP3, stereo, 64 kbps, 14.3 MB, running time 31:24.

0:40 Background on
national health IT strategic plan toward interoperable electronic health records
3:35 Goals of the plan
4:08 Distinction between “health” and “healthcare”
5:25 Explanation of “patient centeredness”
6:20 Physicians’ role in promoting patient centeredness
7:30 IT’s role
8:50 Population health
10:40 Why physicians should care about national IT strategy
12:55 Making the issue personal
13:35 Financial incentives for technology adoption
14:37 Incremental advances
16:18 Medicare e-prescribing incentives as one step in a series of improvements
17:30 Convincing healthcare organizations to cooperate
18:08 Greater public awareness about electronic health information
18:32 Privacy and security concerns, and coming framework
20:50 Convincing doctors to share data
22:10 Trial National Health Implementation Network implementations
22:55 Where physician IT leaders can make a difference
AHIC successor
25:25 Complexity of healthcare in the U.S. and abroad
27:18 Profound workflow changes from IT and maximizing skills of healthcare professionals
29:06 Possible effects of 2009 administration change
30:15 Health IT’s fundamental role in healthcare reform

July 22, 2008 I Written By

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

AMDIS notes

OJAI, Calif.—I’m at the Physician-Computer Connection, the annual symposium of the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS), a high-level meeting of chief medical information officers and other leading medical informatics specialists. I’ll have a bunch on a couple of surveys on the attitudes, job functions and salary ranges of CMIOs and physician executives in IT, most likely in Digital HealthCare & Productivity in the next couple of weeks. (I need to pay for this trip, after all, and the recent run-ups in airfares, car rental costs and, of course, gasoline, are not helping my cause. But I digress.) Let’s just say a need for leadership skills is prominent.

I have plenty of other news and notes that are worthy of posting here, however.

For one, look out this fall for “Improving Medication Use and Outcomes with Clinical Decision Support: A Step-by-step Guide,” an update to the 2005 “Improving Outcomes with Clinical Decision Support: An Implementer’s Guide.” According to lead author Jerry Osheroff, M.D., chief clinical informatics officer of Thomson Reuters Healthcare (formerly Micromedex), this one defines CDS as “providing clinicians or patients with clinical knowledge and patient-related information, intelligently filtered or presented at appropriate times, to enhance patient care.” The guide will follow a modified set of the “five rights” for safe healthcare: The right information to the right person in the right intervention format through the right channel at the right point in the workflow, Osheroff says.

The new volume also involves many more industry stakeholders than the previous edition. It will carry the names of HIMSS, AMDIS, AMIA, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices and the Scottsdale Institute, and is sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, two clinical IT vendors and two health systems. Osheroff didn’t name the vendors or health systems, but it’s a safe bet Thomson Reuters is involved.

Contrary to rumors, healthcare executive recruiter Betsy Hersher is not retiring, but she is shutting down her Hersher Associates firm and moving into consulting. At least a couple of her employees have taken jobs at Witt/Kieffer.

Earlier this week, I reported in Digital HealthCare & Productivity about the recent reorganization at Sage Software Healthcare. I since have learned that the company will be hiring a new, permanent CEO sooner rather than later. I’m guessing that means within a few weeks. I have no idea about who the candidates might be.

While I’ve been out here on the West Coast, the Medical Records Institute published a scathing critique of the national EMR strategy. That organization is working hard to market itself and stay relevant after a poorly attended TEPR conference a couple of months ago. This article certainly is an attention-grabber, listing the optimism about meeting the goal of getting interoperable EHRs to most Americans by 2014 among a number of “health informatics myths.”

If you want an impassioned defense of the national health IT strategy, check this space in the next 24 hours for my podcast with national health IT coordinator Robert Kolodner, M.D., who spoke at this conference yesterday. This might be my biggest podcast “get” to date.

July 17, 2008 I Written By

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

Podcast: Robert Kolodner’s MedInfo speech

I guess technically this isn’t really a podcast, or at least not my podcast, since I’m not in this at all. But I’m pretty sure it’s a worldwide Internet exclusive, U.S. National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Dr. Robert Kolodner’s keynote address to the MedInfo 2007 conference (right) on Aug. 23 in Brisbane, Australia. Kolodner’s office even asked me for a copy.

I wanted to plug my recorder into the sound board. The sound techs there told me don’t bother, they’d burn me a CD of the speech. So here you have it, a pristine recording, ripped from that CD. (Please, no flames from BitTorrent purists who believe that there’s no such thing as a “pristine mp3” file.) I’ve uploaded it in stereo and at 128 kbps, double my normal, mono podcast rate.

I’m not going to bother with detailed podcast info for this one, since it took me almost a month to get this posted in the first place, but I’ll link once again to the story I wrote from Brisbane about Kolodner’s remarks and my interview with him. As a special bonus, I’ve included Kolodner’s presentation slides so you can play along at home.

I’ll also say that the “cuddling a koala” he refers to in the first minute is exactly what I’m doing in the picture in my Sept. 9 post. That was from Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary on the outskirts of Brisbane, if you’re ever in the neighborhood. Good thing Brisbane is in Queensland, because apparently it’s illegal to touch a koala in the Australia state of Victoria.

I have a couple more podcasts in the pipeline, so check this space later this week.

Podcast details: Keynote speech by Dr. Robert Kolodner to MedInfo 2007, Aug. 23, 2007, in Brisbane, Australia. MP3, stereo, 128 kbps, 43.5 MB. Running time 47:30.

Presentation slides (PDF, 2.4 MB)

September 18, 2007 I Written By

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

MedInfo coverage

After a week of pressing deadlines and erratic sleep courtesy of the worst case of jet lag I’ve ever encountered, I’ve finally collected my thoughts and my wits, and am ready to post a few things from MedInfo 2007 and related conferences.

I thought I’d start by posting links to some of the stories I’ve written from my trip to Australia. I have a couple of podcasts to post as well, plus some more writing to do, but here’s something. I was the only full-time journalist from either North America or Europe at MedInfo, so I’m using that to my advantage. (If there’s any editor out there still interested in coverage, I’m listening. I have nearly 500 poster presentations to draw on, to give you an idea of the breadth of material available.)

From Digital HealthCare & Productivity

“Optimism Marks Opening of the MedInfo 2007” (Aug. 21)
My report of the keynote address by Sir Muir Gray, NHS director of clinical knowledge.

“A Tale of RHIO Success” (Aug. 21)
I travel all the way to Australia to report on Winona Health in Minnesota.

“Kolodner Says U.S. Will Reach Pres. Bush’s 2014 EHR Goal” (Aug. 28)
My coverage of Dr. Robert Kolodner’s keynote address to MedInfo, with snippets from the interview he gave me.

“Shortage of Health-IT Workers Is Limiting Progress” (Aug. 28)
News of a collaboration between the International Medical Informatics Association and the World Health Organization, based on my interview with officials of both organizations and their presentations to MedInfo.

“Grappling with the Softer Side of Health-IT” (Sept. 5)
This is another exclusive: my coverage of the ITHC 2007: the Third International Conference on Information Technology in Health Care: Socio-technical
, a small, focused meeting held in Sydney a week after MedInfo.

“Reporter’s Notebook: From the Land Down Under” (Sept. 5)
Exactly what it sounds like.

From E-Health Insider and EHealth Europe

“IMIA and WHO to ‘revitalise relationships'” (Aug. 23)
Another take, in more depth, of the IMIA-WHO collaboraton.

“Wireless solutions simplify communication” (Aug. 31)
I look at creative applications of wireless technology in Denmark and Austria.

September 9, 2007 I Written By

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

Breaking news: Kolodner gets permanent appointment

This just in from the Department of Health and Human Services: Dr. Robert Kolodner has been named coordinator of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, effective immediately. He had been interim coordinator since Sept. 20.

This really should come as no surprise to anyone in the industry. At last month’s Health IT Summit in Washington, there was a lot of talk that Kolodner would serve out the remainder of President Bush’s term, until January 2009, in which case the “interim” boss would be on the job longer than the only previous permanent coordinator, Dr. David Brailer. Today’s announcement at least does away with that bit of incongruity.

April 18, 2007 I Written By

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