Harvard professor Dr. Donald Berwick, appointed as chief of Medicare and Medicaid during last week's Congressional recess and sworn in yesterday, spent his first morning on the job at a press briefing on electronic medical records.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius introduced Berwick, who spoke first at the briefing hosted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. “We haven’t wasted any time,” said Sebelius. “He was sworn in yesterday afternoon and we're putting him to work right away.”
Berwick opened his brief speech with forward-looking remarks, reminding the audience of President Obama's goal to have electronic health care records available to all Americans by 2014. “What we have at stake is the future of health care itself,” said Berwick. “The benefits of a modernized health information technology help everyone. It’s a win-win, right across the board.”
Unlike many doctors throughout the nation – Sebelius noted that only 20 percent of hospitals and 10 percent of physicians use basic electronic health records – Berwick has had the opportunity to use them extensively in his medical practice. “Almost from the very start, I worked in an organization that was a pioneer,” said Berwick. “What that meant for my patients and for me was better care.”
Today’s press briefing marked the release of the final regulations on “meaningful use” of electronic medical records. Hospitals and doctors must meet these requirements to qualify for funds from the CMS to help pay to implement health information technology. Advocates say that the technology will improve the quality of health care and reduce error and cost, and Berwick ended his address by echoing that stance.
“It’s going to be less costly in exactly the ways that we all want to reduce cost, by taking out barriers and complexity,” said Berwick
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.