Obama names doctor to clear health-care paper swamp

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) holds a town hall meeting at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in Los Angeles, California, March 19, 2009. From L-R are: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Obama, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. REUTERS/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama named a Boston doctor and Harvard professor on Friday to lead his $20 billion dollar effort to modernize the disparate and paper-dominated health-care system in the United States.

Dr. David Blumenthal will become the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, charged with implementing health information technology provisions of Obama’s recently passed economic stimulus package.

Blumenthal was most recently director at an institute for health policy at Massachusetts General Hospital, and also led an information technology program at Harvard.

The government is offering financial incentives for doctors and hospitals to add or upgrade their technology systems.

Key challenges include making the information systems “interoperable” and protecting patient privacy.

Blumenthal worked on Capitol Hill in the late 1970s for U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat, who will play a key role in the effort to update the health-care system. He also advised Obama during his 2008 campaign for president, according to the Obama administration.

Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe