He's not been asked to appear on "Oprah."
But David Brailer, M.D., has become one of healthcare's hottest speakers. "We've fielded over 700 requests, and that's for the next several months," says Missy Krasner, Brailer's special assistant for policy in the office for the coordinator of national health information technology.
Brailer's popularity has spiked since May 6, when he was named the nation's IT czar, a post created by President Bush. But the pressure is mounting on the man Bush picked to advise his administration on the course the government should take in promoting the president's goal of ensuring every American has an electronic medical record within a decade.
Bush himself has mentioned healthcare IT repeatedly in several speeches after a mere one-line mention in his January State of the Union address. Meanwhile, there are at least six IT bills pending in Congress.
A culmination, of sorts, will come July 21, when Brailer is set to unveil his blueprint in Washington at the first full day of the National Health Information Infrastructure summit, which opens July 20 and runs through July 23.
Brailer's boss, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, is scheduled to speak on July 21, a day being billed as the "secretarial summit." Brailer will introduce his plan, which will be followed by two panel discussions commenting on the plan, one with public-sector IT experts, another with private-sector panelists moderated by John Chambers, president and chief executive officer of Cisco Systems.
In recent speeches, Brailer has hinted only at broad directions of policy. At a news briefing following his speech at a National Alliance for Health Information Technology conference in Chicago, Brailer said studies were under way to determine Medicare's possible return on investment in healthcare IT. He would not put a deadline on when the studies would be completed but said, "I'm counting it in months. It's urgent."
Armed with those numbers, the government will be able to consider ways Medicare should participate in sharing the cost of provider investments in healthcare IT.
"I think the discussion is how much and in what form," Brailer said at the briefing. The alliance is an organization of healthcare industry leaders seeking to use IT to improve quality and efficiency.
Brailer says several methods of financial assistance have been discussed to help providers implement IT, including helping them pay for it at the time of purchase, pay later for its use or pay based on the value it brings to healthcare. No final decision on a method has been reached, he says.
In addition, Brailer says his office would seek to place a dollar figure on the national return on investment on healthcare IT. "My sense is there has been a lot of churning on this, but no one has put pencil to paper," he says. "There aren't even good estimates as to what this costs."
He reiterated statements made in previous public addresses since his appointment was announced that the government is willing to help pay for IT, but it will seek partners among private-sector payers and other beneficiaries. Brailer told the audience of about 170 attendees at the daylong alliance meeting that the physician-patient relationship should be the focus of what he described as "healthcare reform from the inside out."
And while congressional interest in healthcare recently has exploded--there are a handful of bills directed at healthcare IT--Brailer decried the vision that IT "has gone from a supporting role, to a critical role, to top of the heap."
"This is not about computerization," he says. "It's about what we do with information" and changing concepts of care so that information is seen as a form of therapy.