After rumors surfaced over a year ago, the Obama administration has finally named Donald Berwick, MD to be CMS administrator. Dr. Berwick is a pediatrician and President/CEO of the not-for-profit Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in Cambridge, Mass.
Since Medicare and Medicaid will be experiencing many significant changes as a result of the new health reform legislation, this appointment is timely. It may be that Berwick wanted health reform to be a done deal before he would accept the appointment. He will certainly have his work cut out for him, but I believe he is uniquely qualified for the job.
Dr. Berwick is a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College and a cum laude graduate of Harvard Medical School who also holds a master's degree in public policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. In 1989, he authored "Continuous improvement as an ideal in healthcare" published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which has become a seminal article in the quality improvement movement, advocating the application to healthcare of quality improvement techniques used in other industries.
Since 1991, Berwick has served as co-founder, president and CEO of the IHI, a not-for-profit that has campaigned for quality improvement efforts in healthcare in the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East. The IHI's 100,000 Lives Campaign reported 3,100 participating hospitals had actually saved an estimated 122,300 lives.
Despite the extreme partisan divide in the Senate right now, I expect that Berwick will be easily confirmed. "This is always a big job,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, in a written statement, “but the administration of healthcare reform, which includes implementing the hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts and the biggest expansion of Medicaid in its history, will make it more challenging than ever. The Finance Committee vetting will need to explore the nominee's preparedness for the enormous challenges that face the agency.”
At the IHI’s annual conference last December, Dr. Berwick issued this challenge to health care providers: “Over the next three years, reduce the total resource consumption of your health care system, no matter where you start, by 10 percent. Do that without a single instance of harm, without rationing effective care, without excluding needed services for any population you serve.”
Check out this interview with Dr. Donald Berwick from Kaiser Health News. He says he hopes the public "gets a bit outraged and mobilized as voters ask why we pay health care systems the amount of money" we do and not have them adopt the best practices in treatment and efficiencies.
This interview with Dr. Donald Berwick was originally published on Kaiser Health News on Nov. 12, 2009.