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Harvard Professor To Lead Health IT Push

David Blumenthal's mission is to lead the transition to an interoperable health IT infrastructure, as outlined in the stimulus package.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has tapped the head of Harvard Medical School to oversee President Barack Obama's health IT plans.

HHS announced Friday that the Obama administration had chosen David Blumenthal, a Harvard Medical School professor, to become the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Blumenthal's mission is to lead the transition to an interoperable health IT infrastructure, as outlined in the stimulus package.

The stimulus plan contains nearly $20 billion for health IT, with a goal of adopting an interoperable system by 2014. The federal government has estimated that it could cut health care costs by $12 billion over 10 years with the modernization.

Blumenthal has practiced medicine and served as director of the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was also Samuel O. Thier professor of medicine and professor of health care policy, as well as director of the interfaculty program for health systems improvement, at Harvard Medical School.

Before that, he was senior VP at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. He served as executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Management and as a lecturer on Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He has also served on U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy's Senate Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research and as a senior health adviser to the Obama campaign. He has done extensive research into health information technology, among other issues.

"As a primary-care physician who has used an electronic record to care for patients every day for 10 years, I understand the enormous potential of this technology," he said in a statement. "President Obama has laid out a vision of health reform that is both inspiring and long overdue. We cannot make that vision a reality without the help of our most advanced computer technology."

"President Obama believes we must take serious steps to modernize our health care system in order to improve the health of all Americans, bring down costs and ensure sustained long-term economic growth," HHS spokeswoman Jenny Backus said in a statement. "Health information technology is a critical part of the President's strategy to reform our health care system and as one of the nation's leading health information technology experts, Dr. Blumenthal has the experience and the vision to help make this effort a reality."

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on HIPAA. Download the report here (registration required).

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