HIMSS New England: R.I. Senator calls for innovative leadership

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NORWOOD, Mass.--The role of leadership is imperative in the current healthcare reform, according to Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who spoke at the fifth annual HIMSS New England Chapter Public Policy Forum Wednesday.

“Between the economic investment in health IT and the immense number of reform tools just passed, and the appointment of Don Berwick as the next administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, we are truly poised for significant reform of the healthcare system,” said Whitehouse.

While noting that it’s hard to see what is coming in 10-20 years, the senator stated that a vast number of invaluable tools are on the table to take the industry into uncharted territory.

Using Rhode Island as an example, Whitehouse stated that the state's health information exchange (HIE) has generated some arguments over issues such as “Who owns the data?” Data ownership will one day be embedded as a standard background to contracts, Whitehouse said, but the question must be answered if the HIE is to move forward. “Those that are solving these problems for the first time need extra support,” the senator said.

In a letter to the Obama Administration, Whitehouse said he asked the administration to identify “leading communities of effort” to provide another way to define the quality of meaningful use and urged others to do the same.

Whitehouse said he was tired of hearing about "bending the cost curve." Citing that former president John F. Kennedy did not greatly explain cost curve when putting a man on the moon and instead flatly told the American public that “[w]e will put a man on the moon.”

“Once setting a hard goal, all of the bureaucracy will be to wield [that stated goal,]” he said.

Expensive healthcare for a family doesn’t not have to be a price to pay for not being successful economically, Whitehouse said, concluding that executive leadership and management in the healthcare reform will be crucial.

“It’s vitally important that we get this right” as healthcare reform is crucial for U.S. fiscal protection, according to Whitehouse.