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This Man Wants To Heal Health Care

David Brailer's job is to sell Bush's plan for rewiring American medicine. If he can, it could save lives -- and hundreds of billions of dollars

David J. Brailer never really sought the spotlight. Yet here he is in Harrisburg, Pa., on a hot July day in a Hilton (HLT ) ballroom in front of 500 physicians. The 46-year-old doctor is the chief evangelist for President George W. Bush's effort to remake the $1.9 trillion U.S. health-care business by using information technology to save money and lives. In town to persuade physicians to join his cause, Brailer starts off with what's wrong with the current system. Medical errors, which cause as many as 195,000 deaths a year, are "an unmitigated epidemic," he says. Americans spend 16% of gross domestic product on health care, 60% more than Europeans, for mediocre results. And health insurance costs have resumed double-digit price surges after slowing in the 1990s. "Everyone knows someone who's had a bad experience in health care," Brailer says.

Then he switches gears. With the deft delivery of the software-company CEO he once was, Brailer begins to spin a vision of health care transformed. Technology, he says, can help doctors and hospitals invent new ways to care for patients that are safer, more effective, and cheaper. Health care can be reengineered just like U.S. manufacturing was. Thousands of lives, billions of dollars can be saved. He tells the docs it's up to them: "This is a groundswell that has a chance because it's not being done by just one of us. It's being done by all of us together."