Glaser to advise ONC chief on HITECH

By Bernie Monegain
10:52 AM

John Glaser, vice president and CIO of Partners HealthCare in Boston, has accepted a six-month stint as adviser to David Blumenthal, MD, the national coordinator for healthcare IT.

The work begins on May 4.

Glaser, a recognized leader in the field healthcare information technology, said he would spend four days a week for six months working with the Office of the National Coordinator and the Department of Health and Human Services on the specifics of the HITECH portions of the federal government's stimulus bill.

He did not offer specifics on how he might advise Blumenthal, but recently said he's concerned the stimulus might trigger a rush for money that, in the end, might not achieve the government's stated goal of transforming healthcare via the use of technology. 

"How does it actually get orchestrated?" he asked a Boston audience of healthcare professionals gathered on Feb. 26 to discuss President Barack Obama's plan on healthcare IT. "It's a non-trivial undertaking that takes some thought. There's a bunch of collateral issues."

Blumenthal, a practicing physician and Harvard Medical School professor who most recently worked for Partners HealthCare as director of the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital, seems to be of the same mindset, though he is also faced with adhering to the timeline set in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In an article Blumenthal authored recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, he noted how few hospitals and physicians have adopted EHRs to date – 17 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Some of the barriers, he said, are cost, perceived lack of financial return, technical challenges and concerns about the security and privacy of electronic data.

These worries, he said, would present a "substantial down payment on the financial and human resources needed to wire the U.S. healthcare system."

In the same article he acknowledged the timeline set forth by law.

"First, the DHHS and ONCHIT are operating on a very tight schedule. The infrastructure to support HIT adoption should be in place well before 2011 if physicians and hospitals are to be prepared to benefit from the most generous Medicare and Medicaid bonuses," he said.

Glaser is a fellow of HIMSS, CHIME and the American College of Medical Informatics. He also serves on the editorial board of Healthcare IT News.

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