Washington, D.C., has much to thank Massachusetts for in the arena of HIT (health information technology). Not only have we spearheaded many e-health efforts that have put us ahead of the curve and will provide valuable lessons for the national initiative, but we have also recently given up (or, more accurately, loaned) two of our leading minds for the greater good of HIT. Mass General’s Dr. David Blumenthal has just been chosen by the Obama administration to be the National Coordinator for HIT, and former DPH CommissionerDr. Howard Koh, now at of the Harvard School of Public Health, is Obama’s choice for Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services. Although Dr. Koh’s appointment leaves the Mass HIT Council with a seat — and large shoes — to fill, I, as a fellow Council member, if briefly, am equal parts sad and glad that he has gone on to the larger stage.
The need for smart, thoughtful, and well-versed individuals to tackle this work was brought home yesterday at a meeting at the Mass Health Data Consortium (MHDC) at which an overview of the e-health provisions in the federal “stimulus” bill were presented (MHDC’s Seth Eckhouse filled in admirably for E.D. Ray Campbell).
One of the strongest messages to take away from this very complex set of federal provisions was a simple one: the need for and importance of a definition of “meaningful use,” upon which all incentive and grant money rests, cannot be overstated. It seems that if real interoperability — seamless flow of health information — is ever to become a reality, this issue will have to be tackled. I feel confident that Drs. Blumenthal and Koh will be up to the task, which should include soliciting ideas from and engaging a diverse group of stakeholders — including consumers.
We need a definition that will lead to a robust, trustworthy, and dynamic HIT system: a system that lives up to the phrase, and is both meaningful and useful to all concerned.