Glenn Steele at CMS?

By  |  January 28, 2010 | 

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.


  1. larryvela0216 March 4, 2010 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    Whether this is true or false let us see when it is coming about, CMS.

  2. Kimberly Babb August 15, 2010 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    Geisinger is not one of the most highly regarded Healthcare systems. It is one of the worst in my opinion. It cannot fill most of it’s residency programs and one Geisinger trained surgeon that we knew could not pass his Surgery Boards after trying twice and going back the second time for retraining from Geisinger to attempt the second pass.
    It’s all smoke and mirrors!!

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About the Author:

Robert M. Wachter, MD is Professor and Interim Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where he holds the Lynne and Marc Benioff Endowed Chair in Hospital Medicine. He is also Chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine. He has published 250 articles and 6 books in the fields of quality, safety, and health policy. He coined the term hospitalist” in a 1996 New England Journal of Medicine article and is past-president of the Society of Hospital Medicine. He is generally considered the academic leader of the hospitalist movement, the fastest growing specialty in the history of modern medicine. He is also a national leader in the fields of patient safety and healthcare quality. He is editor of AHRQ WebM&M, a case-based patient safety journal on the Web, and AHRQ Patient Safety Network, the leading federal patient safety portal. Together, the sites receive nearly one million unique visits each year. He received one of the 2004 John M. Eisenberg Awards, the nation’s top honor in patient safety and quality. He has been selected as one of the 50 most influential physician-executives in the U.S. by Modern Healthcare magazine for the past eight years, the only academic physician to achieve this distinction; in 2015 he was #1 on the list. He is a former chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and has served on the healthcare advisory boards of several companies, including Google. His 2015 book, The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age, was a New York Times science bestseller.


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