I took a sad little side-trip during this year’s HIMSS show.
At ZDNet Healthcare and sometimes at ZDNet Open Source, I often portrayed Leavitt as a villain, sometimes an incompetent one, sometimes a Machiavellian one.
This was because CCHIT’s definition of working related mainly to billing, to feature sets. The certification process stood as a barrier to entry against change, and left the HIMSS show floor looking like a 1988 Comdex.
Leavitt was, in fact, neither a hero nor incompetent, and one reason for my pilgrimage was to apologize.
The main goal of health IT in the last decade was to get paid, and certification, as Leavitt practiced it, would assure that the systems hospitals were paying big bucks for did that job.
Had John McCain beaten Barack Obama, it’s possible Dr. Leavitt would have been a keynote speaker at this year’s show.
Trouble is, those programs aren’t really certifying anything meaningful. CCHIT certification is not required for gear to meet the “meaningful use” standards, developed by the Obama Administration, and qualify for up to $44,000 in sweet, sweet stimulus cash.
Thus the room where he sat yesterday was more than half-empty. Dr. Leavitt is gifted by God with short stature and a round face. In person he is slender and intelligent in appearance.
In the history of health IT Mark Leavitt will go down as a transitional figure. It was important, during the last decade, for health IT systems to deliver on their promise, and create bills for hospitals that would be paid. But the frontier has moved on, toward clinics, and toward using data to change how medicine is done.
CCHIT fell with a whimper, not a bang. Its fall is sad. But Dr. Leavitt did the best he could with the hand he was dealt. This happens to people sometimes. I think he deserves a salute and medicine’s thanks. Without him health IT would be much more of a mess than it actually is.