Where’s Atul? Gawande Pulls Out From Giving HIMSS Keynote Address

The man heading an ambitious effort to transform how health care’s delivered keeps a low profile.

Atul Gawande, MD, the nationally known health care expert who is leading an effort by Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway to do the little job of transforming the entire health care system has pulled out of giving the keynote speech at the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference next month in Orlando.

Stat reports this morning that Gawande’s move adds to the air of mystery about the project. “Neither HIMSS nor Gawande’s spokeswoman offered an explanation of what triggered his withdrawal,” Stat reports. “But it may only stir further speculation about the venture: Is Gawande holding his fire for a grand announcement in the months ahead? Or has the venture just not made much progress since he took control in early July?”

There’s been few new hirings for the venture, which hasn’t even been given a name yet. One of those hired has been Jack Stoddard, tapped as COO and who led health care innovation at Comcast. Another is Dana Safran Gelb, who formerly oversaw performance measurement at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. (Gawande is also based in Massachusetts.)

The HIMSS conference is attended by about 45,000 government officials, physicians and technology executives from around the world. It’s a great platform for Gawande to get a message out, at least if there is a message to get out.

Howard Forman, a professor of management and public health at Yale University says it’s all very odd. “Keeping a low profile is fine, but you’d think you’d hear more about hires,” he tells Stat. “When Google went all in [on health care], you heard very quickly about people being hired and people being considered for multiple different jobs.”