Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, former commissioner of the FDA and former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services , believes that "almost always if you can put people together and think about good ideas and perspectives you can come up with good pathway forward."

That belief, along with McClellan's experience in public service and his extensive academic background in health policy and economics, has contributed to the creation of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform by the Brookings Institution (Washington), where McClellan is now a senior fellow.

The Brookings Institution this week reported the creation of the Engelberg Center and the appointment of McClellan as its founding director.

The center will address the challenges of access, quality and finance facing the U.S. healthcare system and it will seek to effect lasting change by providing practical solutions that result in high-quality, innovative, affordable healthcare, according to Brookings.

"Number one, there is more investment in new medical technology going on than ever before, yet the FDA hasn't seen an upturn yet in products approved, so we're putting in more resources and not getting as much for it and that needs to change," McClellan told Medical Device Daily, when asked about the timing of the new center.

The type of products coming through the pipeline, such as drug/device combination products, also make the timing of this center significant, he said.

"We really have an opportunity to improve people's lives," McClellan said, adding that in order to do that changes must be made in the regulatory process. He suggested that the best way to do that might be to bring together the scientific experts with the regulators.

The creation of the center has been made possible by the support of two Brookings trustees, Alfred Engelberg and Leonard Schaeffer, the institution said. A grant from The Engelberg Foundation will underwrite the center's operational activities during the first five years. In addition, an endowment gift will establish the Leonard D. Schaeffer Director's Chair, to which McClellan has been appointed.

Engelberg noted that he expected the center to make a major contribution to the actual implementation of changes affecting the costs and quality of healthcare.

"Mark McClellan's proven ability to create and implement important healthcare reforms, combined with Brookings's long history of thoughtful impact on public policy has the potential to make a real difference in the steps that are taken to fix our broken healthcare system," Engelberg said.

"The time has come to develop and enact reforms that enhance cost control, clinical effectiveness, access to healthcare for underserved populations and the preparation for and management of public health crises," Schaeffer said. "As the focus on healthcare reform increases, the center will prove to be a powerful force in shaping health policy."

The Engelberg Center's agenda will focus on four key priorities for long-term change: improving the quality of medical care; increasing access to affordable coverage; encouraging rapid and effective innovation for the development of more personalized medicines; and reducing costs for public and private programs.

"The American public wants action, not just more discussions and more studies," McClellan told MDD. "There are myriad health policy ideas, but real challenges arise in turning them into better healthcare. The Engelberg Center will focus on collaborative efforts to put good policy ideas into action and achieve real change in our nation's healthcare system."

The center will work closely with a broad range of public and private organizations to implement policy on the national, state and local levels, according to Brookings. An initial partnership will aim to achieve widespread use of consistent and valid quality and cost measures, to improve the value of healthcare and facilitate better-informed decisions by patients and doctors.

This partnership will be funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and will enhance the ground-breaking work of the Quality Alliance Steering Committee, a consortium of public and private stakeholders, Brookings said.

The center will draw on scholars across Brookings as well as academic leaders. One such collaboration is with the Dartmouth Center for Healthcare Policy Research and Reform , headed by Elliott Fisher, MD. Through the center's Dartmouth Atlas Project (DAP), which uses comprehensive research about how medical resources are distributed and used in the U.S., McClellan and Fisher and colleagues will use their findings to help implement policies that reduce the cost and raise the quality of medical care.

Following his departure from CMS, McClellan joined the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies as a visiting senior fellow in October 2006 and was recently named a senior fellow at Brookings. During his tenure in public service, McClellan built a reputation for developing effective policy and putting it into action, through such efforts as the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit and innovative state coverage reforms in Medicaid at CMS, and the launch of FDA's Critical Path Initiative to modernize the drug development process.

He also served as a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers and a senior director for healthcare policy in the White House from 2001-2002, and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy from 1998-1999. McClellan has been a tenured professor of economics and of medicine at Stanford University , (Palo Alto, California) where he also served as director of Stanford's Program on Health Outcomes Research. McClellan is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences , has twice won the Arrow Award for outstanding research in health economics, and has been a practicing internist, the Brookings Institution noted.

The Brookings Institution is a private nonprofit organization that develops independent research and innovative policy solutions.