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Former eHealth chief leads project at UCLA

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Sarah Kramer (pictured), formerly CEO of eHealth Ontario, is currently working in the healthcare IT sector in California. According to media reports, Kramer is executive director of a team bringing electronic health records to UCLA Health System’s patients in four hospitals and clinics with 2,000 doctors. She is working as a consultant, and is not on staff.

In 2009, Kramer was embroiled in a politically damaging scandal at eHealth Ontario and resigned from her position. She was criticized for hiring consulting agencies at high prices without putting the contracts out for tender; she also came under fire for her $317,000 severance package.

Kramer had been hired a few months before the eHealth Ontario brouhaha in a bid to speed up the implementation of health record systems in the province. Her plans showed great promise, but she set off a public storm of controversy due to her methods.

The University of California at Los Angeles has touted her as part of “an exceptional team of experts” working on their CareConnect program. The goal is to have electronic health records for patients by mid-2013.

When Kramer left eHealth as chief executive in the summer of 2009, her golden parachute fuelled outrage from opposition parties and the public. It was later revealed Kramer gave a speech that cost $25,000 to write and that eHealth gave out $16 million in contracts without competitive bidding in efforts to get electronic health records in place as quickly as possible.

But a furor over the spending prompted Premier Dalton McGuinty to crack down on rules for tendering of contracts and expenses by consultants, some of whom were paid up to $3,000 a day and also charged tea and chocolate chip cookies expenses to taxpayers.

Kramer did not reply to an email from the Toronto Star seeking comment about her new job.

The CareConnect website notes that: “Kramer has an extensive background in health system information and performance improvement across government, non-profit and private sectors in Canada, the United States, Asia and Africa.”

Electronic health records will allow the health system to “deliver leading-edge patient care...and to remain prominent in the markets we serve,” the website publication said.

The CareConnect program is using technology from Verona, Wis.-based Epic, but the actual implementation will be tailored to UCLA’s needs, according to a statement by Michael Steinberg, MD, chair of the executive oversight board, on the CareConnect website. The rollout will start with scheduling, registration, billing and ambulatory clinicals followed by inpatient clinicals.

“The CareConnect program is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to work together as an organization to really change how we deliver healthcare,” said Patricia Kapur, MD, co-chair of the Faculty Practice Group and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology. “It puts UCLA in an excellent position for examining and enhancing processes that support the overall care experience.”

Posted March 10, 2011