Government // Leadership
Commentary
3/29/2010
02:44 PM
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CIO's Front-Row Seat In Healthcare History Making

John Glaser, CIO at Partners HealthCare System--which operates several Boston area hospitals, including Massachusetts General and Brigham & Women's, is finishing up his nearly year-long stint as an advisor to President Obama's health IT czar.

John Glaser, CIO at Partners HealthCare System--which operates several Boston area hospitals, including Massachusetts General and Brigham & Women's, is finishing up his nearly year-long stint as an advisor to President Obama's health IT czar.Last spring, Glaser was named a special advisor to Obama's national health IT coordinator, Dr. David Blumenthal, who was formerly a physician at Partners.

Glaser, who shuffled between D.C. and Boston over the last year, was among Office of National Coordinator for Health IT insiders who helped flesh out details of the government's $20 billion-plus HITECH programs.

"It was cool to be in the middle of this," said Glaser in an interview with InformationWeek.

The stint provided Glaser an up-close role with the feds while listening to the input of other healthcare industry IT leaders, many who themselves are members of ONC's various advisory groups, such as the HIT Standards and HIT Policy committees and their workgroups.

Glaser's time with ONC had him hearing all about the health IT concerns of the different constituencies of healthcare, ranging from "20-bed hospitals, to 900-bed medical centers," including other large organizations like Partners, said Glaser.

While different healthcare players have their own particular concerns about the fed's proposed, near-final meaningful use rules--including some who complain that the requirements need to be scaled back,--there's one common theme that dominates most of the industry, Glaser said.

"The belief is solid" that the push for health IT adoption to improve patient quality of care and help reduce costs is the right direction to go, he said. "Very few are saying this should be stopped," he said.

While in D.C. working with ONC's team of "very smart people" to hammer out HITECH particulars, Glaser was also a witness to other history in the making--Obama's healthcare reform.

Glaser said he was in D.C. the day it became clear to Obama's inner team that Massachusetts Republican candidate Scott Brown would defeat Democrat Martha Coakley in winning the Senate seat held for decades by the late Ted Kennedy.

Brown had campaigned on the promise of helping the GOP kill Obama's healthcare reform bill.

With Coakley's defeat, "Plan B," was what Obama's team then decided to pursue, said Glaser of that moment. And while Glaser said he wasn't sure at the time exactly what Obama insiders meant by "Plan B," he now sees it included the various "parliamentary" maneuvers Democrats in Congress made to help finally pass the bill last week.

While most people, including the media, are focused on healthcare reform's provisions giving millions of Americans access to healthcare coverage, a big part of the legislation aims to improve quality of care and efficiencies through payment reform, said Glaser.

Much of the upcoming payment reform will be enabled by the use of health IT, he said. "The government assumes that when payment reform [kicks in], if you're already a meaningful user [of health IT], it'll be easier to do," he said.

Read our new report on how IP telephony is being used in healthcare settings. Download the report now (registration required).

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