The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported the selection of David Blumenthal, MD, as the Obama administration's choice for national coordinator for health information technology. 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.

Blumenthal is the Samuel O. Thier Professor of Medicine and professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School (Boston) and a primary care physician.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA; Chicago) and Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS; also Chicago) applauded the choice.

"There is not a more appropriate selection than Dr. David Blumenthal as national coordinator to lead America's health information technology efforts through this period of expansion and great promise," AHIMA CEO Linda Kloss said in a statement. "His selection by President Obama illustrates the administration's unqualified commitment to serious healthcare reform and the vital role quality health information must play in this process. Dr. Blumenthal brings to our challenge a unique depth of experience, an extremely broad field of vision and, perhaps most important, an unquestionable professional commitment to patient care and welfare – the ultimate measurement of successful reform."

Stephen Lieber, HIMSS president/CEO, said, "Dr. Blumenthal's expert understanding of the Obama administration's healthcare policy initiatives will be an asset to the healthcare IT community as we all tackle the requirements and milestones identified in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, and work through healthcare reform efforts. We look forward to working with Dr. Blumenthal and his team at the Office of the National Coordinator."

No patient or industry reps on CE council

The Department of Health and Human Services has named 15 individuals to the federal coordinating council that will guide the efforts of the soon-to-be-established comparative effectiveness research institute. The 15, who will collectively be referred to as the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Comparative Effectiveness Research Priorities (CCERP), will oversee the investment of roughly $1 billion, and HHS spokeswoman Jenny Backus is quoted in the statement as saying that the Obama administration "is committed to openness and transparency." Toward that end, the council "will host open meetings and a listening session as it begins its important work."

The statement notes that the listening session is scheduled for April 19, but the HHS press office told Healthcare InfoTech Business Report that there were no further details available.

As one might expect, the council includes Carolyn Clancy, MD, the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Representing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is Thomas Valuck, MD, a senior adviser in the Center for Medicare Management at CMS who was part of the team that set up the hospital pay-for-performance program.

Representing FDA on the CCERP is Jesse Goodman, MD, the director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER). Goodman took the job at CBER in 2002 and was elected to serve at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) three years later. Also on the council is Elizabeth Nagel, MD, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. However, there appear to be no consumers or industry representatives.

In a March 20 statement to the CCERP, which met Friday to receive input, Teresa Lee, vice president of payment and healthcare delivery policy for the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed; Washington) urged IOM "to make public all of the meetings of the IOM Committee on Comparative Effectiveness Research Priorities in order to keep all stakeholders informed of the priority-setting process, and to enable their on-going input."

Lee also recommended that the committee "make its recommendations available for public comment before they are finalized in the report to Congress and the Secretary" so as to "enhance the credibility of the IOM Committee's recommendations." This, in turn, is enabled by giving the committee "input from patients, clinicians, health care providers, and manufacturers who have firsthand experience with how various topics would be relevant for clinical practice," Lee said.

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