Obama Nominates Quality Expert Berwick to Head CMS

April 19, 2010

April 19, 2010 — When President Barack Obama today nominated quality-of-care guru Donald Berwick, MD, to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, he also picked someone to help implement the healthcare reform he pushed through Congress.

"He will be the public face of healthcare reform in Medicare and Medicaid, and he'll be extremely effective in that role," said William Jessee, MD, president of the Medical Group Management Association.

Dr. Berwick, a pediatrician, is president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), a nonprofit organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that assists hospitals and physicians in improving patient care and weeding out waste in the process. He is the author of 2 books on redesigning healthcare titled Curing Health Care and Escape Fire.

If the Senate approves his nomination, Dr. Berwick would go from heading an organization with roughly 120 employees and operating expenses of $36 million in its latest fiscal year to commanding a 4600-strong bureaucracy that accounts for about one fifth of all federal spending. However, President Obama is hiring Dr. Berwick to be not just a mere administrator, but a visionary, said Martin Hatlie, president of the Partnership for Patient Safety and a former lobbyist for the American Medical Association.

"What he will bring is thought leadership," said Hatlie.

"He's articulate and very charismatic," added Dr. Jessee. "We had him speak at one of our conferences, and he got our audience very fired up."

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