Top newsmakers: Making good on visions deployed in 2007

By Patty Enrado
12:00 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. – They dominated the headlines and made bold announcements that created huge impacts in the healthcare industry and across America.

Marquee names topped the results in our reader surveys for top policymakers, provider-based healthcare IT leaders who did the most innovative work in 2007 and vendor-based leaders who have advanced the cause of healthcare IT the furthest in 2007.

Policymakers: walking the walk

It seemed that every week Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt was making announcements. That constant visibility accounted for his being the runaway vote-getter as top policymaker of 2007.

From new standards for e-prescribing, personalized healthcare goals and global electronic health record standards to Medicaid transformation grants and commitment to healthcare system transparency, Leavitt is being touted for his healthcare IT focus. “Consistent messaging of the impact of technology on healthcare is penetrating every component of the industry,” said Kevan Nasserzadeh of Fair Isaac.

“I do not believe that the health IT battle will be won locally,” wrote in one reader. “Meaningful change will come from national initiatives such as those Mike Leavitt is driving, or at the least, the way will be paved by these early initiatives.”

President George W. Bush garnered support from businesses and other stakeholders for his value-driven healthcare plan with four cornerstone goals, including adoption of healthcare IT interoperability.

Despite his second-place finish, Bush has his detractors, most notably Deborah Peel, MD, of the Patient Privacy Rights. “Bush and his administration have pressed forward to create an illegal and unethical HIT system by eliminating patients’ right to control their personal health information,” she complained.

While not as charismatic as David Brailer, MD, the first National Coordinator for Healthcare IT, Robert Kolodner completed his first full year as head of ONCHIT spearheading the same agenda as his predecessor and landing as the number three top policymaker. “As another physician, I thought he had the most practical view of the issues at hand,” said Karen Scoles, MD, medical director of information systems for Crozer-Keystone Health System.

Provider-based HIT leaders: investing in quality care

Partners HealthCare System’s innovation and risk-taking make it a great model for what IT can accomplish, one reader wrote. Readers thought CIO John Glaser’s leadership at Partners worthy of voting him the top provider-based healthcare IT leader who did the most innovative work in 2007.

“I am personally honored,” said Glaser. “I realize, humbly, that great work is done by great teams. Any honor of me is an honor of the teams that are so effective at Partners.”

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, or UPMC, deployed major IT initiatives and its vice president of emerging technologies, Jay Srini, was rewarded with second-place honors.

“UPMC focuses on innovations in patient safety and quality by coalescing the multifaceted talents of many distinguished individuals in the organization,” she said. “I am indeed privileged to have a role in this ecosystem at UPMC, which fosters innovation through the visionary acumen of the business units and the support of the technical, financial and legal team.”

Third-place vote-getter Frank Opelka, MD, CEO of the Louisiana Health Network, perhaps had the greatest challenge in trying to deliver quality healthcare post-Katrina. “Courage to lead in a field that has much improvement and take advantage of the resources at hand due to extraordinary circumstances will put this investment at the leading edge of influence,” wrote in one reader.

“On behalf of all the underinsured victims of Katrina and for our nurses and doctors at LSU, I am thankful for all the efforts the entire healthcare IT industry (including Allscripts, Microsoft, Dell and many others) has brought to building a new infrastructure for New Orleans,” said Opelka. “We are building new and exciting systems to enhance the quality of care, patient safety and our patient-provider relationship.”


Vendor IT leaders: big ideas, big vision

Microsoft may have been late entering the healthcare market, but its Health Solutions Group made up for it with its announcement of HealthVault. While many have a wait-and-see attitude, the fact remains that the industry expects HealthVault to make a big impact in the consumer world.  

“As a technology optimist I believe in the ability of great software to transform healthcare delivery and management worldwide. It’s rewarding to be recognized,” said Peter Neupert, corporate vice president, and top vote-getter. “We have a lot of work to do to bring healthcare into the Internet age. Success will require the participation of organizations across the health ecosystem, and I hope that our work at Microsoft can help stimulate others to invest with us and lead the way.”

Although second in the survey, Glen Tullman, CEO of Allscripts, was credited by one reader with helping to make e-prescribing the most widely adopted IT initiative.

Tullman acknowledged the team effort at Allscripts, and said, “I believe that healthcare is our most important industry, and I’m committed to building an interconnected healthcare system that provides physicians and other caregivers the tools and information they need - when and where they need it - to deliver improved care at lower cost.”

Steve Case, CEO of Revolution Health, came in at third. Readers commented on his big name, big ideas and big bucks – out of his own wallet – to fund his vision.