Next ONC chief could be in plain sight

August 7, 2013 in Medical Technology

The announcement Aug. 6 that Farzad Mostashari, MD, would be stepping down from his job as national coordinator for health information technology this fall  led much praise about his passion for the work, and his many achievements.

However, no one who spoke with Healthcare IT News was willing to offer names of potential candidates to fill what many say are extraordinarily big shoes.

Bill Spooner, vice president and chief information officer of Sharp Healthcare in San Diego, said he couldn’t immediately suggest a successor, but did offer that, “I would like to see someone from community healthcare, where adoption and patient engagement are still challenging, lead ONC.”

Russ Branzell, CEO of CHIME, which represents more than 1,400 CIOs, said little more on the matter of a successor. He and the CHIME membership, he said, hope the next ONC chief would be able to build on Mostashari’s legacy. Branzell said he would like to see someone who has worked in the trenches, as Mostashari had in New York City, as a doctor, nurse or CIO.

There were several names mentioned a few years back to replace outgoing ONC chief David Blumenthal, MD, before Mostashari took the post. Among them was John Halamka, MD, the well known CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and co-chair of the federal Health IT Standards Committee. Another was Bill Bria, MD, CIO at Shriners Hospitals for Children and founder of AMDIS.

Insiders have also noted there is a deep bench of professionals in at ONC who could be up to the task. Here is a quartet, derived from the ONC organizational chart:

With the title of Principal Deputy National Coordinator, David Muntz would fulfill Branzell’s hope for someone who’s worked in the trenches. Muntz works with Mostashari and oversees the activities of the four offices within ONC: Office of the Deputy National Coordinator for Programs and Policy; Office of the Deputy National Coordinator for Operations; Office of Economic Analysis, Evaluation, and Modeling; and the Office of the Chief Scientist. Before joining ONC, Muntz served as CIO at Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, where he was responsible for more than 730 information services employees who cared for a delivery system with more than 280 points of entry. And, before Baylor, he served as CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas for 15 years.

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