Waiting on a health IT czar

Would health IT benefit from having someone with an insurance background pushing the agenda? What kind of IT infrastructure might result if someone from that industry were leading the way?

Now that the health IT stimulus is signed speculation can be turned to the "health IT czar" who will be in charge of it.

Right now Robert Kolodner (right), as National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, is the point man.

As I noted in September he has extensive experience with open source. He was the VA's chief informatics officer and built its MyHealtheVet portal.

He is, however, a holdover from the Bush Administration. While he is what they call a "career employee," he did rise within the bureaucracy during the last 8 years and achieved his high rank during that time.

It's very possible the new HHS Secretary will want his (or her) own man (or woman) in there. Or Kolodner might get the nod.

The leading candidate for HHS Secretary at this writing, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sibelius, has experience as a health insurance regulator, but The New York Times writes it's unlikely that, even if nominated, she would get the White House policy advocacy position that was to be given to Tom Daschle, who withdrew.

Would health IT benefit from having someone with an insurance background pushing the agenda? What kind of IT infrastructure might result if someone from that industry were leading the way?

Again, the last is speculation. More important than where they come from are such questions as their attitude toward open source and open standards, their inclination to make or buy solutions, and their connections with medical informatics professionals, people who know something.

Another important question will be their ties to the current industry, to HIMSS and CCHIT. Do they consider companies like McKesson, Cerner, and HBOC to be successes to be built upon or tigers to be dealt with at a distance?

The sooner we know the answers to these questions the sooner we will know if this stimulus money will be wasted or spent wisely.

Who would you like to get the job?