The height of health IT

December 1, 2009

Charles Kennedy, MD, plays a vital role in WellPoint's innovative health record that contains clinical benchmarks

Even health insurance giant WellPoint-with more than 35 million members and arguably enough reach to change the system with sheer volume alone-is taking few chances on the future of healthcare delivery. Like most plans, it's testing new programs with cautious optimism, while aiming for large-scale implementation.

Specifically, WellPoint's emerging Individual Health Record-a simultaneously patient-facing and physician-facing electronic record-is "almost an air traffic control system to manage disease," according to Dr. Kennedy. It's probably one of the most promising efforts to control costs among members with chronic conditions. Pulling claims and clinical data through complex algorithms to arrive at a functional health summary differentiates the Individual Health Record from the typical EMR system.

With more than 20 years of experience comprised of clinical practice and health IT implementation, Dr. Kennedy began his career in internal medicine. When he was a resident at Highland General Hospital in Oakland, Calif., he noticed how the patients' needs far outstripped the hospital's resources, and that experience solidified his vision of where medical care and information should meet.

Earlier this year, Dr. Kennedy was named by the Government Accountability Office as a member of the new Health Information Policy Committee, which was established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Serving a three-year term, he and other committee members are creating policy framework for the development and adoption of a nationwide health IT infrastructure, including standards for the exchange of patient information. The committee will also make recommendations for handing out the $38 billion in health IT funding earmarked in the reinvestment act.