IT chief pledges July Plan

By Jack Beaudoin
12:00 AM

Dr. David Brailer, the nation's new healthcare IT czar, says he fully intends to meet President Bush's July deadline for a strategic plan to upgrade the federal government's use of healthcare information technology.

"In April, the president ordered all federal agencies that touch healthcare – either 14 or 15 in all, depending on how you count them – to come back with a strategic plan within 90 days," Brailer said at the May "Towards an Electronic Patient Record" conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. While the plan may not be minutely detailed, Brailer predicted it would "include important statements of principles about where we will go."

It's likely the strategy will be released at a National Healthcare Information Infrastructure conference that begins on July 20. If Brailer's remarks at TEPR were any indication, interoperability standards, financial incentives for adoption and vendor certification will be high on the list. Medicare reimbursement reform, in contrast, is already "off the table."

Brailer spent much of his time at his first official public appearance reaching out to those in the industry. On several different occasions he urged those on the front line of healthcare IT to help him shape national policy. "We're in this together," he said.

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Brailer said that the government wouldn't build or endorse a universal system itself and force healthcare organizations and physician practices to adopt it. Unlike the project now taking place in Great Britain, the United States is likely to rely on the private sector to provide tools and for local, state and regional consortia to implement interoperable tools.

What the government can do, Brailer said, is provide both carrots and sticks to urge providers to adopt IT tools that incorporate standards of interoperability. Among the incentives Brailer listed, financing and education were obvious tools in the toolbox.

TEPR attendees were cautiously receptive to Brailer's vision. "I was interested to see how well-versed he was on the issues," said Dr. Robert B. Mountcastle, a Virginia internist. "We'll give him six months and see where he is.""I thought he was very informative," said Chris Rogers, a COO at a northern Colorado multispecialty practice. "But now I think I need to wait before I make a decision on an EMR and see what the feds do.

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