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David Blumenthal
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David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P., is president of The Commonwealth Fund, a national philanthropy engaged in independent research on health and social policy issues.

Dr. Blumenthal is formerly the Samuel O. Thier Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief Health Information and Innovation Officer at Partners Healthcare System in Boston. From 2009 to 2011, he served as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, with the charge to build an interoperable, private, and secure nationwide health information system and to support the widespread, meaningful use of health IT. He succeeded in putting in place one of the largest publicly funded infrastructure investments the nation has ever made in such a short time period, in health care or any other field.

Previously, Dr. Blumenthal was a practicing primary care physician, director of the Institute for Health Policy, and professor of medicine and health policy at Massachusetts General Hospital/Partners Healthcare System and Harvard Medical School. He is the author of more than 250 books and scholarly publications, including most recently, Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and a former board member and national correspondent for the New England Journal of Medicine. He has also served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research; is the founding chairman of AcademyHealth, the national organization of health services researchers; and a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Dr. Blumenthal received his undergraduate, medical, and public policy degrees from Harvard University and completed his residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. With his colleagues from Harvard Medical School, he authored the seminal studies on the adoption and use of health information technology in the United States. He has held several leadership positions in medicine, government, and academia, including senior vice president at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Management and lecturer on public policy at the Kennedy School of Government. He served previously on the board of the University of Chicago Health System and is recipient of the Distinguished Investigator Award from AcademyHealth, an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Rush University and an Honorary Doctor of Science from the State University of New York Downstate.

Entries by David Blumenthal

Bending the Curve on Patient Safety?

(2) Comments | Posted February 12, 2015 | 11:03 AM

Fifteen years ago, the landmark Institute of Medicine report, "To Err Is Human," estimated that medical errors led to 44,000 to 98,000 deaths each year. Later estimates put those figures even higher.

Because the lion's share of errors seemed preventable, the report asserted that, "it would be...

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IPAB: Ditching the Dog That Didn't Bark

(0) Comments | Posted January 12, 2015 | 9:50 AM

The Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, has been a popular target for critics of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since the law passed, so eliminating IPAB, either separately or through wholesale ACA repeal, could be high on the legislative agenda in the new Congress. The strange thing is: IPAB...

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2014: The Health Care Year in Review

(0) Comments | Posted January 6, 2015 | 12:15 PM

ICYMI, 2014 was not just any old year in health care. The problem isn’t finding historic events to note, it’s pruning the list. Here’s a crack at some things that we at The Commonwealth Fund thought worth calling out.

  1. Uninsured rate drops: For the first time...

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Health Reform: Foolish, Courageous, or Both

(1) Comments | Posted December 4, 2014 | 3:50 PM

Some supporters of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are worried they're paying a political price for health care reform. The political fallout should come as no surprise.

The history of comprehensive health reform shows unequivocally that it's a short-term political disaster. That's why so many political leaders have...

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Electronic Health Records: The New Lightning Rod in Health Care

(0) Comments | Posted October 31, 2014 | 1:52 PM

When Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital failed to diagnose the first known case of Ebola in the U.S., the hospital initially blamed its electronic health record (EHR). As it turned out, the problem was the humanware, not the software. The culprit was a mundane and all-too-common failure by people to communicate...

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Do Health Care Costs Fuel Economic Inequality in the United States?

(0) Comments | Posted September 16, 2014 | 7:15 PM

The growing debate over economic inequality in the developed world, highlighted by Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, raises an interesting question that is particularly pertinent to the United States. Have escalating health care costs contributed to the huge economic gap between America's rich and the rest? The evidence,...

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Drugs and Dollars

(0) Comments | Posted July 31, 2014 | 11:54 AM

Even with the relentless spotlight on the Affordable Care Act, a new health issue is edging toward center stage: drug costs. The poster drug for this controversy is Sovaldi, a dramatically effective and extraordinarily expensive new agent for treating hepatitis C, which causes chronic liver infection.

The hepatitis C virus...

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Big: Grappling With the Size of U.S. Health Care

(0) Comments | Posted July 10, 2014 | 4:48 PM

When it comes to U.S. health care, size is a big deal (sorry). Here are a few facts to make the point.

Our health care system serves a country extending 4,600 miles -- from the Bering Strait to Key West. The distance from the equator to the North Pole: 6,000...

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Of Leaders and Geeks

(0) Comments | Posted June 30, 2014 | 6:37 PM

Consider these seemingly unrelated developments:

1. An IT failure (healthcare.gov) nearly destroys a president's legacy, while a seeming IT triumph (the National Security Agency's electronic snooping skills) throws his foreign policy into turmoil.

2. According to Michael Lewis' fascinating and scary book Flash Boys, Wall Street geeks make billions through...

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Drop in Health Care-Acquired Infections Points the Way to Progress

(1) Comments | Posted April 18, 2014 | 6:26 PM

Sometimes the news is good.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data showing that health care-acquired infections (HAIs) are decreasing in the nation's hospitals. Dropping fastest are central line-associated blood stream infections (44 percent from 2008-12) and some surgical site infections (down as...

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Time to Move on

(0) Comments | Posted April 2, 2014 | 11:47 AM

For the last four years, politicians, policymakers, and the media have focused almost obsessively on the coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The fundamental question has been whether the law would survive or be repealed, and its coverage provisions -- the creation of new individual and small-business marketplaces...

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Taking Stock of SHOP Insurance Marketplaces for Small Businesses

(0) Comments | Posted March 27, 2014 | 8:37 PM

The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) under the Affordable Care Act enables businesses with 50 or fewer employees to purchase private health insurance for their employees, and employers with fewer than 25 employees and lower-wage workforces to earn a tax credit for doing so. A recent Commonwealth...

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Narrow Health Care Provider Networks: Boon or Bane?

(1) Comments | Posted February 25, 2014 | 10:55 AM

Some health plans sold through the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) health insurance marketplaces use "narrow networks" of providers. That is, they limit the doctors and hospitals their customers can use. Go to Doctor A or Hospital A and the plan will pay all or most of the bill. Go to...

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Exchanges, Exchanges Everywhere: Understanding the Role of Private Exchanges

(0) Comments | Posted January 28, 2014 | 12:59 PM

Just when we thought we'd gotten the health insurance exchange part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) down, along comes a curve ball: private exchanges.

We knew about public exchanges (or marketplaces): 14 run by states and the District of Columbia, 36 run by the federal government alone or in...

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Holiday Reading and Health Reform

(0) Comments | Posted January 7, 2014 | 6:41 PM

According to Mark Twain, "history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme." I was reminded of this Twainism over the holidays as I read The Guns at Last Light, the third in Rick Atkinson's three-volume history of the Second World War in Europe. Atkinson's account of D-Day -- the June...

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ACA Dates that Matter

(0) Comments | Posted December 25, 2013 | 12:16 PM

Confusion about Affordable Care Act (ACA) deadlines is rampant. That's because there are lots of them and they keep changing. The fact is that some of them matter a lot more than others.

In my view, the BIG deadline is:

MARCH 31, 2014: Under the ACA, all Americans must...

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A Balanced View of the Affordable Care Act

(0) Comments | Posted December 5, 2013 | 4:07 PM

A full, fair reckoning of the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will take years. An earlier blog post outlined some of the measures -- such as reductions in rates of uninsurance and underinsurance and trends in health care costs and quality -- by which the law...

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The Presidential Health Care Curse: Why Do They Bother?

(2) Comments | Posted November 20, 2013 | 2:53 PM

Until now, virtually every president who has dabbled with comprehensive health reform has failed spectacularly, often at huge political cost. Think of Harry Truman's lonely campaign for national health insurance, Jimmy Carter's devastating conflict with the late Senator Edward Kennedy over universal health care coverage, the first George Bush's ineffectual...

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Reflections on Health Reform: A Tale of Two IT Procurements

(3) Comments | Posted November 12, 2013 | 6:09 PM

Last week, the president of the United States, the most powerful person on earth, the man whose finger rests on the nuclear button, struck a bold blow for... procurement reform?

"There are a whole range of things that we're going to need to do once we get (the...

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