Health-Care IT Czar: Industry Momentum is Top Priority

On the job only a few days, Dr. David Brailer is already attempting to rally physicians, health-care organizations, government agencies, insurers and IT providers to move more quickly toward electronic medical records.

Dr. David Brailer, the newly appointed national health IT coordinator, is already attempting to rally physicians, health care organizations, government agencies, insurers and information technology providers to move more quickly and effectively toward the implementation of electronic medical records in the United States.

A consultant to the administration for the past several months, Brailer is assessing the resources at his disposal—which span across the 14 or 15 federal agencies—that touch upon the issues of health care and IT.

He is tasked with coordinating the efforts of these federal agencies, working with the industry and commenting on all health-care-related budgets.

He argued Wednesday that his role, rather than creating an entire additional agency, is to more effectively put existing resources to use.

Brailer defined his role as analogous to previously established positions for AIDS, drug and terrorism appointees. "I dont want to build a new fiefdom," Brailer said. "Were not here to start programs, but to harmonize" existing ones.

In July, Brailer plans to release a full strategic plan for the future of health care and IT in the United States at the National Health Information Infrastructure conference in Washington, D.C.

In his remarks at the Toward an Electronic Patient Record conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., he called for greater industry self-regulation, particularly around thorny technology-interoperability issues.

Brailer defined his role in this process as helping to "shape an industry consortium." His plan for achieving improved interoperability is an industry certification of products that meet minimum feature, interoperability and security standards.

Health Level 7 (HL7) standards, Brailer argued, are insufficient because of varied interpretations by vendors and customers.

If the industry fails to successfully regulate itself, Brailer said Congress is likely to eventually do the job for it. He argued that this trend has already been initiated with the signing into law of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Another priority for Brailer is consistent, accurate measurement of electronic medical record adoption and usage. He estimated that the current level of adoption is 5 percent to 15 percent of physicians, but cautioned that "were flying without a lot of good data."

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