Brailer named health IT coordinator

A California physician seen as a national leader in using information technology to promote better, more efficient health care has been appointed as the first national health IT coordinator.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson introduced Dr. David Brailer, who holds both medical and doctoral degrees, at a health summit today in Washington, D.C. President Bush first announced the position last week as part of a plan to promote adoption of electronic health records for all Americans within a decade.

Using IT to improve health care is not new, but Janet Marchibroda, who heads the nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based eHealth Initiative, a consortium of more than 50 health care companies, said the industry and government are at the "tipping point" of actually implementing many ideas.

She said Brailer's appointment is significant because he brings private-sector insight and experience.

One focus for Brailer, a senior fellow at the Health Technology Center in San Francisco, will be to support efforts to develop standards and infrastructure across the public and private sectors. He favors studying incentives in Medicare and other federal programs that would encourage the private sector to adopt interoperable electronic health records.

According to HHS, a national health information network could save $140 billion annually through improved care and reduced duplicative tests.

Today's summit featured Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi, Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich, who's been involved in health issues for years, said creating a system to exchange electronic health records would save money. Much of an electronic system would be Web-based, universally accessible, encrypted and compliant with federal health privacy regulations, he said.

Principi said the VA has been at the forefront in implementing various technologies to help veterans get better health care such as digitizing, storing and accessing electronic diagnostic images, speeding up transfer of patient records and automatically checking proposed prescriptions against a patient's medications to there is no adverse drug interaction.

At the summit, Thompson also proposed:

* Adoption of 15 standards

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