During most of my nine-year stint as a reporter for Modern Healthcare, my desk mate was John Morrissey, who covers information technology and quality of care for the magazine. I covered legal affairs, which at the time was one of the hottest beats in healthcare. Antitrust enforcement was in its heyday, the Internal Revenue Service was cracking down on taxable business behavior by tax-exempt organizations, and fraud investigations were moving from a crawl to a jog. And poor John? He was stuck covering computers.
Year after year, John warned me that some day the status, newsworthiness and importance of his beat would meet or eclipse mine. And year after year, I would say, "It's still just computers, John." Well, John's day has come. Has it ever. The exclamation point on John's argument about the ascent of IT and patient safety to one of the magazine's top beats, if not the top beat, is this year's ranking of the 100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare. Our third annual list appears in this issue beginning on p. 6 as our cover story, written by reporter Michael Romano. The list is peppered with people who make IT and patient safety their work, their passion and their livelihood.
Most visible, of course, is David Brailer, the new national health IT coordinator, who was voted by Modern Healthcare readers as the most powerful person for 2004. As John disclosed in his July 26 cover story (p. 6), Brailer's gargantuan task is designing and implementing a national strategy for increasing the use of IT, particularly electronic medical records, in the healthcare delivery system. Our readers clearly recognized the importance of Brailer's mission and voted accordingly.
A number of IT advocates also made this year's ranking. They include:
* Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who has made IT implementation his latest cause through his Center for Health Transformation.
* Linda Kloss, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the American Health Information Management Association.
* Molly Coye, founder and CEO of the Health Technology Center.
* Scott Wallace, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Health Information Technology.
* And H. Stephen Lieber, president and CEO of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.
Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, the top executives of many companies that make information technology and stand to benefit financially from the industry's preoccupation with IT made this year's list. The companies represented include Cerner Corp., McKesson Corp., Siemens Medical Solutions and 3M Health Information Systems.
As John knows well, IT and patient safety go hand in hand, and this year's ranking picked up on that connection as well as the universally recognized need-with or without IT's help-to improve the quality of care provided to patients by hospitals and physicians. For example, the top executives at the three hospitals or hospital systems that have won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award made this year's list of the 100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare. What makes them powerful, according to Modern Healthcare readers, is their commitment to educating their peers about the Baldrige quality-improvement strategies and raising the patient-safety bar for all hospitals. Other patient-safety advocates who made the list include Donald Berwick, Carolyn Clancy, Michael Cohen, Suzanne Delbanco, Kenneth Kizer, Lucian Leape, Margaret O'Kane, Dennis O'Leary and Sidney Wolfe.
As John wryly noted, antitrust, tax and fraud lawyers were noticeably absent from the list.
What do you think?
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