by Ben Worthen

20/20 HONOREES – John Glaser

Oct 01, 20022 mins

Vice President and CIO

Partners HealthCare System

Everybody goes to the doctor,” says Partners HealthCare System CIO John Glaser, describing why he was drawn to medical information technology. But if you’re the new CIO of your state’s largest hospital group, you might want to be careful when you do. In late October 1988, shortly after starting at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (one of the hospitals that formed Boston-based Partners in 1994), Glaser got a splinter in his ring finger. By Halloween night it had turned purple, so Glaser went to the hospital. When he told the attending physician, John Teich, who he was, Glaser?who doesn’t shy away from colorful language?says the doctor “told me my systems sucked.” To Teich’s surprise, four days later he got an office on Glaser’s floor and became corporate director for clinical systems research and development.

Since then, Glaser, 47, and his team have developed a computerized order entry system that automatically checks for serious medication errors and has reduced them by 55 percent. The improvements to patient care and administrative efficiency are so staggering that the order entry system is now being commercially developed and is eagerly anticipated by other health-care CIOs who believe that it is the next wave of hospital systems. Glaser and his teams have since developed an emergency room tracking system and computerized medical records and medical imaging systems. “I can’t make a doctor be 100 percent accurate, but we can give them the tools,” says Glaser, who has also written a children’s book.

Sam Thier, the Partners CEO, says Glaser “could literally do anything.” Such respect is not an unusual reaction when colleagues and friends talk about the man many feel has accomplished more than anyone else in medical information technology.