Regional and national experts will gather at Brown on Monday, June 8, 2009, to discuss the challenges and opportunities of health care reform and its implications for Rhode Island and the nation. The event is part of the annual Frontiers of Healthcare Conference, organized by Brown University and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.).  The conference runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon in the Salomon Center for Teaching and is open to the public without charge.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Experts will gather at Brown University Monday, June 8, to debate the many challenges and opportunities of health care reform. The debate is timely and has enormous implications as the issue moves to the top of the national agenda, and Congress pushes to pass a reform bill this year.

“Healthcare Reform 2009 and Beyond,” the sixth annual Frontiers of Healthcare Conference, is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to noon in the Salomon Center for Teaching on the Brown campus. The Division of Biology and Medicine sponsors the event in conjunction with Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.). There is no charge, and the public is invited to attend.

The goal of the conference: To explore how health care reform could affect Rhode Island and the nation in the coming months and years. That discussion is gearing up as health care costs continue to rise at unsustainable rates. Policy-makers want to make care more affordable, improve access and boost quality, but they must do so without harming existing services or jeopardizing the sometimes costly development of new drugs and treatments.

Dr. Edward Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences at Brown, said the system needs some urgent changes.

“One of the biggest threats to our government, our economy and our health is the instability of the health care system,” Wing said. “We need health care reform ... That is what this conference is all about.”

Kennedy, who is serving his seventh term in Congress, said the conference will ask, and seek to answer some of the big questions about how to successfully pursue health care reform.

“Health care reform has enormous implications for every person in Rhode Island and this country,” Kennedy said. “This conference will attempt to tackle some of the issues at stake through conversations with national and regional leaders. I look forward to hearing what they have to say.”

Wing will open and close the conference and Kennedy will speak during the event.

A number of national and Rhode Island health care experts and stakeholders will take part, including two keynote speakers: John Glaser, vice president and CIO at Partners HealthCare System and currently a senior adviser at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and James Greenwood, a former U.S. representative who is now president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

Update: David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology for DHHS who was originally scheduled to speak, will remain in Washington for a White House meeting. Glaser, Blumenthal’s senior adviser, will speak in his place. (Updated Friday, June 5, 2009.)

Prior to joining Partners HealthCare, Glaser was vice president for information systems at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and had managed the health care information systems consulting practice at Arthur D. Little. He was the founding chairman of College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and is past president of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). He is also past president of the eHealth Initiative and has been a member of the Board of the American Medical Informatics Association. Glaser holds a Ph.D. in health care information systems from the University of Minnesota.

Greenwood, as head of BIO, leads a Washington, D.C.-based organization that represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers, and related organizations across the United States and in 30 other countries. The membership produces new products for the health care, agricultural, and environmental industries.

Greenwood became the new head of BIO in 2005, after 12 years representing Pennsylvania’s 8th District in Congress. During his legislative tenure, particularly as a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Greenwood was considered a leader on both health care and the environment.

After both speeches, a panel of experts from the Rhode Island health care community will respond to issues discussed earlier in the forum. The panel includes Constance A. Howes, president and CEO of Women & Infants Hospital; Dr. Reid Coleman, medical informatics officer at Lifespan; Dr. David Gifford, director of the Rhode Island Department of Public Health; Christopher Koller, the Rhode Island health insurance commissioner; James Purcell, president and CEO of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island; and Laura Adams, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Quality Institute.

Dr. Patricia Nolan, a former Rhode Island health commissioner and clinical associate professor of community heath at Brown, will moderate the panel.

The event, which is free and open to the public, includes a continental breakfast from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Audience members will have opportunities to ask questions and participate.

After the event, the panel and keynote speakers will remain for a press availability.