President Obama has long said he wants an IT revolution in healthcare, the idea being making medical records electronic will result in better patient care with lower costs. And already a whopping $19.5 billion in public moola has been allocated in the stimulus package towards that goal. Companies like Microsoft (MSFT) and IBM (IBM) have set up IT healthcare units, salivating over getting their piece of the pie.
Now we know who’s in charge of overseeing how that $19.5 billion gets spent: Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. David Blumenthal has been named “National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.”
David’s been a high-profile figure in the medical establishment and a longtime advocate for making medical records electronic. He’s also an old-school liberal who co-wrote a 2005 op-ed in the New York Times praising LBJ for championing Medicare. (And chiding Republicans for opposing it.)
Microsoft and IBM may find it difficult to lobby David; the doctor has previously called for physicians to refuse gifts from pharmaceutical companies, and has called it “unwise” for doctors studying addiction to accept grants from the casino industry.
Last winter, when UnitedHealth (UNH) floated the idea of offering insurance against losing health insurance, David told Forbes “if you’re willing to pay 20% of an insurance bill to have the option to buy it, isn’t that an expression of a failed market?”
But he’s not without a sense of humour. Check out his gem Crain’s reported from a 2006 medical conference on a doctor shortage:
Blumenthal offered a couple of axioms to illuminate the key question of just how many doctors this country will need in the foreseeable future. The first, he told the crowd, “is that you can’t predict supply if you can’t predict the future of the American healthcare system.
“And the second axiom is you can’t predict the future of the American healthcare system.”