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Where Do Policy, Advocacy, Operations, and Technology Meet? Why Russ Branzell May Have the Answer

May 13, 2013
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CHIME's May 6 announcement calling for a one-year extension of Stage 2 of meaningful use opens a new chapter for the association on Capitol Hill

When on May 6, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) issued a formal response to a critique by six Republican U.S. senators of the meaningful use process under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, and called for a one-year extension of Stage 2, it was a clear signal that CHIME’s leaders have raised their association’s profile in the healthcare association and policy worlds. Indeed, when CHIME president and CEO Russ Branzell spoke first toHealthcare Informatics regarding that announcement, he emphasized that CHIME will be moving more aggressively into the public policy sphere, while remaining non-partisan and apolitical.

In fact, the creation of a beefed-up president and CEO role, and CHIME’s appointment of Branzell to that post earlier this year, represent at a core level a clear directional movement for the CIOs’ association, as CHIME wades further into the complex arena of federal policy (and inevitably, implicitly, politics), in order to try to ensure that the meaningful use program ends up being fair, both on the broader level, and also on the micro-level of specifics. While Russ Branzell emphasized to me in our May 6 interview that CHIME has no intention of getting into politics per se, he is a very savvy healthcare IT leader who has spent years with some involvement in federal and state policy processes, and is no naïf.

So it will be interesting to see how Russ Branzell and his fellow leaders at CHIME navigate the tricky waters of the federal legislative and policy processes.

Want to know what’s on Russ’s mind this week, following CHIME’s march to Capitol Hill last week? He will be the opening plenary speaker at the Healthcare Informatics Executive Summit in San Francisco this week, when he speaks on the topic “Charting a New Course in Healthcare: How Organized IT Leadership Can Proactively Shape Healthcare’s Future,” and will take questions from the audience following his prepared remarks. And it is still possible to register for and attend this important event.

Meanwhile, I think it will be fascinating to see how CHIME’s current policy push plays out on Capitol Hill. There are both potential risks and rewards; but what is clear to CHIME’s leaders is that keeping a distance from the regulatory and policy development processes won’t be helpful to CHIME’s members going forward, and that the level of the organization’s advocacy efforts will need to be intensified as meaningful use moves into its later phases, and as healthcare reform is implemented over time.