John Glaser, Boston’s Top Hospital Geek, Talks About Obama’s Health IT Plan and Getting Booted from Catholic School
John Glaser, chief information officer of Partners HealthCare, sits atop one of the largest health IT organizations in New England. Yet beneath his corporate shell lives a scorching wit and perhaps a somewhat reformed hell-raiser. He was kicked out of his Jesuit high school in the Bay Area during his junior year for his part in an underground newspaper that, in his words, was “all about drinking beer and [dating] 16-year-old girls.” (Read on for his stories about answering to a Jesuit tribunal at his school and hitchhiking to the Panama Canal.)
Glaser, 55, has been part of the brain trust of hospital IT experts that has advised President Barack Obama’s administration on its plan to pump $19 billion over the next several years to speed the country’s transition from paper-based health records to electronic health records (EHRs). But Glaser is not afraid to point out the failings as well as the merits of the President’s plan.
Glaser (pronounced Glass-er) understands the huge challenges of Obama’s health IT plan. Only about 6 percent of U.S. doctors actually use electronic health records for their practices today, he says. And the President has set a very bold goal of having full electronic health record adoption in this country by 2014. The vision is to eventually have networks in place so that hospitals and physician practices can access and share every American’s electronic health record.
People listen to Glaser about these big topics in health IT because he’s been thinking about them at a high level for a long time. He took over as chief information officer of Partners in 1995. The health information systems group he leads includes seven CIOs who report to him, a total of 1,500 people, and an annual budget of about $270 million, according to Glaser. (To put the size of that organization in perspective, consider that one of the largest public health IT companies in Massachusetts, Phase Forward (NASDAQ: PFWD), had a total of 939 employees at the end of last year.)
So I was thrilled to listen to Glaser’s views on the torrent of change across the health IT landscape during our brief interview at the Convergence Forum on Cape Cod earlier this month. Here are some excerpts from that interview:
Xconomy: What are the big business opportunities in health IT, in your opinion?
John Glaser: I don’t know how well they are being exploited. There are a couple of threads here. One is that there is incentive federal money that will be amplified by other money for EHR adoption, particularly in the small- and medium-sized physician practices and hospitals. The bigger places like Kaiser Permanente, Partners, and Boston Medical Center have already made lots of … Next Page »