If you’re in healthcare, the most important announcement today will not be Steve Jobs’ introduction of the iPad (thrilling as that is). Rather, it will be President Obama’s expected announcement of the appointment of Dr. Glenn Steele as the new director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
At this writing, it is still rumor (although I have it on fairly good authority that it’s legit), but it is starting to appear in the blogosphere. I know Glenn fairly well (we’ve spoken at a few conferences together), and I think he would be an inspired choice.
Glenn has a unique pedigree, one that has prepared him exceptionally well for the position. He is an MD, PhD, and an accomplished academic surgeon, having spent many years at the University of Chicago – rising to become dean of the medical school. He also led the American College of Surgeons earlier in his career.
In 2001, he made an unusual career move, switching from the halls of academia to the highly regarded Geisinger Health System in Central Pennsylvania. Under his guidance, Geisinger became the poster child for a high quality, well-organized delivery system with unique degrees of integration between hospital and physicians, advanced information technology, and a relentless focus on quality. It was under his leadership that Geisinger launched its “ProvenCare” model – essentially a money-back warranty on medical care.
With the probable failure of comprehensive health reform, CMS will become an increasingly important player in driving the value agenda: promoting high quality, safe, and efficient care. Glenn will be the first to tell you that Geisinger has some major advantages that made his job a bit easier (they essentially own the Central PA market, and they run their own insurance plan). Sure. But I also remember him telling me a story that floored me, a story that spoke volumes about his commitment and integrity. A few years ago, Geisinger had managed to cut its costs while improving quality. He was beaming with pride as he showed me a clipping from a local newspaper, which reported the story of how the town’s school district had managed to hire back several teachers because its healthcare costs were unexpectedly manageable.
That is the kind of person we need leading CMS. Here’s to hoping that the rumor is true.