From an initial one-liner in his most recent State of the Union address, President Bush has larded several subsequent speeches with increased support for healthcare IT.
On April 26, Bush called for every American to have an electronic medical record within 10 years, then tasked a newly created national healthcare IT coordinator with developing a plan to do it.
The president sounds serious enough. In his speech that day he said "a proper role for the government is to take the lead in this case."
Bush is no Jack Kennedy. His call for IT for everyone in a decade lacks the glamour of JFK's pledge to put a man on the moon in the same amount of time. But in striving toward Bush's goal, we stand to save taxpayers billions of dollars and save thousands of patients' lives.
To lead the effort, Bush picked David Brailer, M.D., as his healthcare IT coordinator. As a Wharton-trained economist, Brailer knows policy. As a physician, he knows medicine. And as the former CEO of a clinical data analysis firm, he knows business and IT. He has wit and self-effacing good humor. Since Brailer's appointment May 6, all of the physician leaders I've spoken with have had nothing but praise for Bush's pick.
Brailer was supposed to unveil his IT plan July 21 at what once was billed as the first full day of the second National Health Information Infrastructure summit in Washington, D.C. Now, most of that first full day's meeting is being touted as the Secretarial Health Information Technology Summit II as HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, Brailer's boss, has increased his profile at the event.
On an earlier agenda, Thompson had been invited to give the keynote address, so he never was slighted, and, as before, he's still marked down as a keynote speaker. Brailer is now scheduled to deliver, not the plan, but what is being listed as "A Progress Report on the National Health Information Technology Strategic Plan."
Meanwhile, veteran informaticists William Yasnoff, M.D., a senior adviser to the NHII; Clement McDonald, M.D., director of the Regenstrief Institute; Carolyn Clancy, M.D., director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; and Blackford Middleton, M.D., head of the Center for Information Technology Leadership at Partners Healthcare--people who have been toiling in the IT vineyards for years--are either being bumped from the opening-day agenda or added to a panel to discuss Brailer's report.
Scheduled in their place are more keynote speeches by Republican legislators, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., and Sen. Chris Dodd. Hmm.
Thompson, at a June 25 press conference, said he would use the forum to make "several key announcements," about changing healthcare IT in America. Glad to hear it. Time and chance happeneth to them all, and maybe, finally, it is IT's turn. But does anyone remember the IOM hit parade on this subject, starting with "The Computer-based Patient Record: An Essential Technology for Health Care"? It was published in 1991, and was followed by "To Err is Human" in 1999, and "Crossing the Quality Chasm" in 2001.
So it's heartwarming to think Washington is making progress toward an IT plan a president might push as hard as Kennedy did his moon shot. Many people have been dying to hear it, Mr. President. Too many, and for too long.