Quality Controlled

November 1, 2004

What title and job credentials are embossed on the business card of David J. Brailer, MD, PhD, the new National Health Information Technology Coordinator?

However, Dr. Brailer might choose "quality control expert" over all of them. It's this devotion to achieving a higher standard of excellence that convinced Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson to name Dr. Brailer to this health information technology leadership role.

His duties as national coordinator are to carry out the actions ordered by President Bush, who has called for widespread deployment of health information technology within 10 years to realize substantial improvements in safety and efficiency.

"I spent most of my time on my PhD looking at the business case for quality in other industries and the economics of IT investment to change quality," Dr. Brailer says.

What he discovered was that many of the same maladies affecting other industries-such as manufacturing and the fast-food sector-were also occurring in healthcare. This epiphany strengthened his resolve to raise the overall quality of services being offered by healthcare providers.

Dr. Brailer gained valuable insight by combining his passion for medicine and economics.

Dr. Brailer perceives waste, administrative overhead and cost of correcting medical errors as the biggest defects in healthcare. Winning this managed-care trifecta would certainly make the number-cruncher crowd happy, but he insists it's not just about watching the bottom line.

"It's not about saving money; it's about using the money we spend more effectively. My job is to free up the money that we already are spending by creating a more efficient industry," Dr. Brailer says.

Q Describe your mandate. What was the specific trigger bringing you to this role?