David Blumenthal Resigns

Dr. David Blumenthal, 62, today announced that he will step down from his post as National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. He will return to Harvard after this spring.

Interestingly, the story was uncovered by Kaiser Health News who apparently obtained a copy of a staff memo announcing Blumenthal’s resignation. The Department of Health and Human Services has not officially released any information about his resignation.

Dr. Blumenthal was appointed by President Barak Obama on March 20, 2009. He spearheaded a major effort to bring Electronic Health Records to nearly every American as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Office of National Coordinator oversees the standards and certification rules for providers to qualify for funding under the $27 billion program.

According the Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, “David will leave his post having built a strong foundation, created real momentum for (health information technology) adoption, charted a course for the meaningful use of (electronic health records) and launched a new phase of cooperative and supportive work with the health care community, states, and cities across the nation.”

Today’s announcement could have serious implications for the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) of HIT. Dr. Blumenthal’s leadership has resulted in significant increases in Electronic Health Record adoption rates across the United States. A change in leadership could result in a change in strategy and/or a reprioritization of activities at the ONC.

Dr. Blumenthal’s strategy focused on creating a healthier and more interoperable HIT ecosystem through public and private partnership and investment. Yesterday, Dr. Blumenthal helped announce the launch of two pilot programs under the Direct Project. Designed to enable providers to communicate more easily and improve care coordination, it relies on significant coordination of both private and public bodies to agree upon technology standards. He likened the pilots and their future success to the completion of major pillar of a bridge. Dr. Blumenthal indicated that the Direct Project enables us to see a direct connection between what they (ONC) are doing and how a patient’s care can change.

Before being appointed by President Obama, Blumenthal acted as director of the Institute for Health Policy at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Partners HealthCare System in Boston. He also served as director of the Harvard University Interfaculty Program for Health Systems Improvement. Previously, he was senior vice president at Boston’s Brigham and Woman’s Hospital and was executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Management at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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