With no direct representation on ONC’s Policy or Standards Committees, the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS) is setting up its own soap box. In conjunction with Compuware, AMDIS has launched www.meaningfuluse.org , where it hopes the industry will engage in conversation around the issues that are near and dear to the organization’s heart. But AMDIS President Bill Bria, M.D., doesn’t sound like a man who can be shunted aside. In this interview, HCI Editor-in-Chief Anthony Guerra talks with Bria about his plans to be heard.
AG: Do you know how that process works of deciding who is on ONC’s Standards and Policy Committees? I know a number of the appointments are political. Was there any chance for you to get on, were there any efforts made?
BB: Well, none that got to me personally, no. I know that I reached out to ONC; we’ve had a great relationship with Dave Brailer, of course, and Robert Kolodner over the years. I do not know David Blumenthal personally but I certainly know Blackford Middleton, being a member of AMDIS, and John Glaser being a longtime friend.
Since the initial group is focusing on policy, I understand where they are coming from and it does make a lot of sense. Would I like more inclusion? I think the answer to that is yes. Am I saying that there won’t be a continued evolution of the influence on this? I’m given to believe — and that’s by a number of very highly placed folks in this discussion, which includes some of the names I’ve already mentioned — that AMDIS is going to play an essential role in the actual doing, which is what we do, that’s where we belong in terms of the influence on the process. I’m happy to leave the legislators to the legislation and administrators to the administration, but the idea of actually planning out and executing the introduction of information technology across the country in a way that we know can be done successfully, yes, we care a lot about that.
AG: I’ve written that policy discussions can range far from reality. Do you feel AMDIS can have a role providing a reality check to such wishful thinking?
BB: That is precisely what the conversations I’ve had with the ONC are all about. That’s precisely to the point, and what I’m happy to tell you is that a number of the highly placed officers in that body get it.
AG: That’s good.
BB: It’s wonderful because basically it says we know what’s really possible, and the idea of getting past that initial stage of the theoretical, of the high level discussions, we’re ready to talk. It’s not always the beginning of a process that determines the outcome. As a matter of fact, it usually doesn’t. At least in something like this, if I believed in any way that it was these early discussions that’ll determine everything, I would be a lot more concerned than I am right now. I think the idea of getting through some of the political, procedural and policy issues is essential to make way for people that say, ‘Okay, now we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and actually do it.’
AG: As long as the policy and legislative actions haven’t put you in a box because they have established deadlines that are immovable. Today, we have flexibility with the definition of what it means to achieve those deadlines. So it’s an interesting situation, don’t you think?
BB: Well, Anthony, I agree with you, and in no small way the idea of sharing that gap is part of the reason for this site.
AG: Do you think there’s an appetite for another site where someone is aggregating information and trying to have a conversation? Or do you think it’s possible that there is a saturation out there?
BB: Well, with any kind of topic, I imagine that the answer to that is always yes, but with our support from Compuware and the unique structure and role of AMDIS, I think we provide an important perspective of what will need to happen after the first steps are taken.
AG: Is there going to be someone from AMDIS dealing with the content and managing the site?
BB: Absolutely, it is us. No, it’s not Compuware. Compuware is our partner in this, but they created the site at our direction. There was an independent developer group, and it is AMDIS that has and will continue to manage the content of the site.
AG: So it will not wind up being an advertising site for Compuware?
AG: Will there be specific people from AMDIS responsible for content or is it going to be a team effort?
BB: It’s going to be a team effort. Rich (Rydell, AMDIS CEO and executive director) is the head administrator, our early band of merry men includes Lyle Berkowitz, Mike Blum, and Justin Graham, and Howard Landa, who I think you know.
AG: I know a number of those gentlemen you mentioned. Do you have anything else that’s on your mind?
BB: Well, I would just say that you certainly brought out an aspect of the participation right now. I’m with HIMSS, you probably know that. I’ve been the chair of the HIMSS physician community for the last two years and I’m stepping down on that in July, but what I picked up is the government committee with HIMSS. So we’re staying very closely connected with what’s happening legislatively and policy-wise through a couple of channels right now.
So I certainly want to encourage continued advocacy and, from this standpoint, Anthony, you're bringing forward a particular dimension in terms of timing — it always is a matter of saying, ‘Well wait a minute, we’ve got to decide what kind of a party we want to have, and then we bring in the guys that actually put on the show.’ So the issue of early days, it really still feels early. That was prolonged a little bit I think by the Sibelius delay of getting confirmed and Blumenthal being able to start to pull together his team, which I don’t think is entirely done yet. I certainly would like to see a bit more integration our group with these discussions over time, so I fully agree with you on that one.