John Glaser, Boston’s Top Hospital Geek, Talks About Obama’s Health IT Plan and Getting Booted from Catholic School

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well-developed EHR. Do I think that in five years it will be 50 percent? It very well could be at 50 percent. So you could be disappointed or you could say, boy was I pessimistic. It goes back to, it’s hard to change this many moving parts and have any great certainty how it’s going to pan out.

X: What do you think are the greatest weaknesses of the government’s EHR adoption plan?

JG: They didn’t have enough money. [Editor’s note: The plan includes about $17 billion in incentives for physicians to be meaningful users of EHRs and $2 billion to create support health information exchanges and extension centers that help doctors implement EHRs.] When you talk about funding 70 extension centers, you realize that’s not enough money to go around. Two billion dollars seems like a lot of money until you start divvying it up and seeing where it has to go. I might have given them $4 billion or $5 billion for the extension centers.

X: How exactly did you get kicked out of high school?

JG: I ran an underground newspaper at an all-male Catholic school. There were four of us and we each wrote a column. It was all about drinking beer and [dating] 16-year-old girls. We knew all about the former and only dreamt about the latter. I had no working knowledge of the latter. We made the mistake of publishing on the afternoon of parents’ night. So moms and dads came down to this Jesuit school, copies of the newspaper where flying around, and the roof went off. Parents were complaining that their kids were being exposed to this stuff—what the hell is this? So the four of us who wrote it were called in front of a tribunal of Jesuits the following morning. My three buddies all did the mea culpa, which is Latin for “I’m sorry.” When it was my turn, I said I wasn’t sorry at all… and that I was actually proud of what I’d done. I thought Jesuits were cool and would say, “That’s the type of spirit we want, challenging authority.” But I’d crossed the line. So I was kicked out.

X: How’d you end up on the East Coast if you grew up in the Bay Area?

JG: I went to Duke University as a math major and graduated in 1976. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I went to work in a salmon cannery in Alaska. Then I hitchhiked from Fairbanks to the Panama Canal over a six-month period of time. By the time I got there, I was tired and also realized I was madly in love with this woman I had met in school at Duke. I went back there to be with her, and I’m married to her still. I worked at Research Triangle Institute as a program analyst and did a big survey on healthcare quality and expenditure. I decided that healthcare is cool, so I went out to the University of Minnesota and got a PhD in healthcare information systems. [Editor’s note: Glaser moved from the Midwest to work for Arthur D. Little in Cambridge, MA, in 1984 and has worked in the Boston area ever since.]

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