20 people to watch in healthcare IT in 2017

Top influencers play significant roles in offering direction to the industry.

20 people to watch in healthcare IT in 2017

This past year has brought more challenge to the healthcare industry, resulting in upheaval in healthcare IT as well. Health information technology is being asked to play an increasing role as reforms take hold and health leaders expect IT to support changes in care delivery and reimbursement. Here are some of the leaders expected to make large contributions to the discussion on HIT, and provide guidance on where the industry needs to go.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)

Sen. Alexander is Chair of the Senate Health, Education Labor & Pensions Committee, which exerts jurisdiction over healthcare. In the past year, Alexander played a leading role in passing the 21st Century Cures Act and otherwise providing leadership on the nation’s health IT policies.

Francis Collins, MD, Director, National Institutes of Health

Under Collins’ leadership, the NIH is embarking on new initiatives, with one of the largest being development of the Precision Medicine Initiative. Work is already beginning on efforts to build the infrastructure for the historic, first-of-its-kind national cohort of 1 million American volunteers. That effort will heavily leverage EHRs and mobile platforms for the health data contributed by the volunteers.

Deborah DiSanzo, General Manager, IBM Watson Health

DiSanzo leads more than 5,000 IBM Watson employees worldwide. She is now charged with broadening IBM Watson’s business around the world. In recent months, IBM Watson has continued its work in healthcare by forming significant partnerships and conducting work requiring artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Doug Fridsma, President and CEO, American Medical Informatics Association

AMIA is raising its profile as healthcare becomes more dependent on data and analyzing that information to find ways improve care and reduce costs. AMIA also is looking to play prominently in genomics and increasing providers’ ability to provide actionable research that can influence care. Fridsma has come from the public sector to provide visionary leadership to AMIA.

Andrew Gurman, MD, President, American Medical Association

The largest professional organizations for physicians in the country is continuing its push to impact healthcare information technology and this year, Andrew Gurman, MD, picks up the mantle of leadership. Gurman has said he is focusing his tenure on advancing the AMA's three strategic focus areas: to improve health outcomes for Americans living with pre-diabetes and hypertension; accelerate change in medical education and prepare students for today's healthcare system; and enhance physician satisfaction and practice sustainability.

John Halamka, MD, CIO, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and CIO and Dean for Technology at Harvard Medical School

Halamka fills a number of roles within the healthcare IT community. A keen observer of how IT can play into healthcare delivery, he is also chairman of the New England Health Electronic Data Interchange Network (NEHEN), CEO of MA-SHARE (the Regional Health Information Organization), chair of the US Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP), and a practicing emergency physician.

Stanley Huff, MD, Chief Medical Informatics Officer at Intermountain Healthcare

A leading voice on interoperability is that of Huff, Chief Medical Informatics Officer at Intermountain Healthcare and a Professor in Biomedical lnformatics at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City. As CMIO at Intermountain, he has responsibility for the architecture and functions of all clinical information systems. He’s served in several organizations and on federal panels on HIT.

Chuck Jaffe, MD, CEO of Health Level Seven

Jaffe’s organization saw its work on an emerging interoperability standard called FHIR gain increased visibility and credibility for widespread use. Jaffe is often in the lead working to advance interoperability in healthcare through the use of FHIR. Expectations are high that HL7 will continue development on the standard to enable the free flow of healthcare information.

Liz Johnson, Chief Information Officer, Acute Care Hospitals at Tenet Healthcare

Johnson in 2017 is taking the reins as chair of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, which has a powerful voice in offering the industry’s view of federal policy on HIT initiatives. She’s used to big initiatives—she led one of the biggest initiatives in Tenet’s history: a $620 million project to implement electronic health records in 49 Tenet hospitals over a four-year period.

Stephen Lieber, President and CEO of HIMSS

HIMSS’ influence has only increased in recent years, as it expands efforts worldwide. If there is a top power player in health IT, it is Stephen Lieber. HIMSS is the face of health IT, it often sets the agenda. HIMSS brings together the industry with its annual conference where stakeholders are educated, find new friends, kick the tires on new products and services, and make deals. And, policymakers listen to HIMSS.

Jonathan Linkous, Chief Executive Officer, American Telemedicine Association

After years of waiting, telemedicine is one of the hot new ways of delivering healthcare inexpensively. The advent of value-based care has brought it to the fore. As the chief staff executive of ATA since its inception in 1993, Linkous has lectured and written extensively on healthcare modernization, technology issues, emerging applications and market trends in the U.S. and around the world.

Deven McGraw, Deputy Director for Health Information Privacy, HHS Office for Civil Rights

Through mid-December, the HHS Office for Civil Rights has sanctioned six healthcare organizations during 2015 for serious violations of the HIPAA privacy/security rules, imposing large fines and mandated corrective action plans. Four of the sanctions—with considerably larger fines—came after McGraw became deputy director for health information privacy in late June. With hacking now far more prevalent than five years ago, 2016 could be a busy year on the sanctions front. McGraw and her agency also will be active in developing privacy requirements for the Precision Medicine Initiative.

Pamela McNutt, Senior vice president, Chief Information Officer, Methodist Health System

McNutt is a leading voice in the industry in divining what federal regulations mean and how they will impact healthcare IT professionals. She is an active participant in the College of Healthcare Information Executives and participates in its programs, including playing lead roles on its policy committee. She is one of the leading authorities in the country on dissecting HIT regulations and explaining the impact on providers.

Rick Pollock, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Hospital Association

The AHA has long led the hospital industry in protecting the interests and advocating for change in healthcare. The AHA has increased its voice within healthcare IT, and Pollack is often the spokesman for the national group. A 32-year veteran of the AHA, Pollack succeeded at the end of 2015. Since 1991, Pollack has served as AHA’s executive vice president for advocacy and public policy responsible for the development, implementation and management of the association’s advocacy, representation and public affairs activities. 

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Secretary-designate of the Department of Health and Human Services

A one-time physician and long-time member of the House of Representatives, Price was tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to lead HHS in his administration. It’s expected that Price will lead major changes in the Affordable Care Act and the Medicare program. That will have downstream effects on healthcare IT strategy. Price wields significant power and influence in his new role.

Stephanie Reel, Senior vice president, Vice Provost and Chief Information Officer; Assistant Professor in the Division of Health Sciences Informatics, The Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore

Reel is widely respected in the healthcare IT industry, and has served on several panels to share her healthcare IT knowledge. In her current role, Reel oversees a $300 million business unit with approximately 1,000 FTEs who manage the IT requirements for seven hospitals, 50-plus physician practices, more than 3,000 practicing physicians and more than 2,000 researchers and educators.

Jocelyn Samuels, Director, Office for Civil Rights, Department of Health and Human Services

Samuels leads the OCR’s work to enforce federal laws that help to ensure non-discrimination and equity in federally funded health and human services.  She also spearheads enforcement of federal laws that protect the privacy and security of medical information and the rights of individuals to their health records. Increasingly, her agency has been bringing enforcement actions against providers who have run afoul of HIPAA requirements, and more such actions are expected in 2017.

Robert Tennant, Director, Health Information Technology Policy, Medical Group Management Association

Tennant is a widely respected voice within healthcare IT, particularly on physician engagement and use of healthcare IT. At MGMA, he focuses on federal legislative and regulatory health information technology issues, including HIPAA, electronic health records, electronic prescribing and ICD-10. He participates in numerous industry efforts and panels.

Micky Tripathi, President and CEO, Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative

Tripathi is well-known for playing a leadership role in working to achieve interoperability within the healthcare industry. His activities range from policy guidance at the federal level, to collaborative strategic planning at the state and community levels, to implementation of health IT systems at the frontline of healthcare delivery. As manager for the Argonaut Project, Tripathi will help to accelerate/mature HL7’s FHIR in 2017 as a standard to address health IT interoperability challenges and facilitate FHIR-based health apps that focus on putting the person and the care experience front and center.

Seema Verma, Administrator designate, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Verma has been selected by the Trump administration to head CMS, an influential role that will help facilitate changes that the new administration will craft for the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Verma has served as a consultant who helped craft the Healthy Indiana Plan and helped shape the healthcare policy of both former Gov. Mitch Daniels and Gov. Mike Pence.

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