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Government

David Blumenthal unveils an FCC of health IT

What Blumenthal seems to be doing is making communities compete for money so that examples of best practices in the meaningful use of health IT can be established that act as models for other cities.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Dr. David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator for Health IT, has reorganized his office along the lines of agencies like the FCC, as he prepares to spend the $19.2 billion in HITECH money authorized by the Obama stimulus.

The new structure, delivered December 1, will create five offices under his, including one for a chief scientist, a deputy for programs and policy, a deputy for operations, an office of economic modeling and analysis, and a chief privacy officer.

The chief scientist will track grants, the policy group will define "meaningful use" under which grants are awarded, the operations office will manage contracts, while the economic modeling office will evaluate the results of everyone's spending.

All four of these groups replace existing offices. The privacy office is new. This official will report directly to Blumenthal on issues of data privacy and security, and will be appointed by Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sibelius.

Blumenthal also set aside $235 million in grants for 15 "beacon communities," which will be held up as models of what everyone else should do. Applications for the grants are due February 1, with each grant worth up to $20 million.

What Blumenthal seems to be doing is making communities compete for money so that examples of best practices in the meaningful use of health IT can be established that act as models for other cities.

This is in contrast to simply distributing money around the country in proportion to economic need, political pull, or some measure of fairness. It's a Darwinian approach meant to create centers of excellence.

Excellence will be be defined by coordinating operations and making change happen. Blumenthal said the grant winners will already be leaders in using data to change workflows, improve patient care and monitor quality.

The money is intended to take these communities further, in order to prove that IT can actually improve outcomes and lower costs, which a recent report from Blumenthal's old Harvard stomping grounds says it has not yet done.

Once results are proven in a few communities, these places will then be held up as models driving change in others.

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