Blumenthal named national coordinator for health information technology

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Professor will guide Obama’s vision for health IT

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today (March 20) the selection of David Blumenthal as the Obama administration’s choice for national coordinator for health information technology

A physician at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Blumenthal is also director of the MGH Institute for Health Policy and Samuel O. Thier Professor of Medicine and professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School. He is also director of the Harvard University Interfaculty Program for Health Systems Improvement.

As the national coordinator, Blumenthal will lead the implementation of a nationwide interoperable, privacy-protected, health information technology infrastructure as called for in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

ARRA includes a $19.5 billion investment in health information technology, which will save money, improve quality of care for patients, and make the U.S. health care system more efficient, according to the HHS release. Blumenthal will lead the effort at HHS to modernize health care information technology by 2014, thereby reducing health costs for the federal government by an estimated $12 billion over 10 years.

“I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to serve President Obama and the American people in the effort to harness the power of health information technology to modernize our health care system,” Blumenthal said. “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.” 

“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,” said HHS spokeswoman Jenny Backus. “Health information technology is a critical part of the president’s strategy … 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.

“Dr. Blumenthal,” added Backus, “shares President Obama’s commitment to investing in a health IT infrastructure that will protect patient privacy, and improve both quality and efficiency in our nation’s health care system.”

Blumenthal has extensively researched the dissemination of health information technology, quality management in health care, the determinants of physician behavior, access to health services, and the extent and consequences of academic-industrial relationships in the health sciences.

Previously Blumenthal was senior vice president at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and served as executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Management and as a lecturer on public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

During the late 1970s, Blumenthal worked on Sen. Edward Kennedy’s Senate Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research. More recently, Blumenthal served as a senior health adviser to the Obama for America campaign.