David Brailer, M.D., the nation's new healthcare information technology czar, has already offered clues about how he would diagnose and treat the nation's healthcare IT ills.
Last October, as a senior fellow of information technology and quality of care at San Francisco-based Health Technology Center, Brailer authored a 42-page policy paper for the California HealthCare Foundation called Use and Adoption of Computer-based Patient Records.
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson earlier this month named Brailer as national health information coordinator, a post created in late April by President Bush (May 10, p. 4).
Brailer noted that his first task is to set a baseline for current levels of adoption of an electronic health records system. Merely defining an electronic medical record is part of the problem. Brailer chose the label "computerized patient record" but listed 12 other possible names for the record systems and concluded that the classification "undoubtedly ... contributes to conflicting information about whether these tools are used by clinicians."
Brailer identified the cost of electronic health records and physician resistance to using them as "substantial and enduring" barriers to wider adoption.
"The policy challenge in many ways is not to make the benefits of (computerized patient records) more compelling but to make the barriers less challenging," he said.
A key way to do that is through wider adoption of standards that will provide for interoperability of medical records systems across hospitals, physician offices and other providers, Brailer said. Also, doctors have to be persuaded to buy into the technology.
Brailer's appointment was widely hailed by physicians contacted by Modern Physician last week.
"They couldn't have made a better choice," said Mark Leavitt, M.D., director of ambulatory care at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, a Chicago-based trade group for the healthcare IT industry. "In fact, it restores my faith in government to see someone so well-qualified appointed."