CHIME, HIMSS Raise Concerns About ONC Leadership Changes

November 10, 2014 in News

Last week, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society sent a joint letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell warning that recent staffing changes at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT could negatively affect health IT progress, Health Data Management reports (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 11/10).

Background on Staffing Changes

In October, officials announced that National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo would serve as acting HHS assistant secretary for health where she now leads HHS’ Ebola response team. DeSalvo is maintaining her leadership role at ONC, but Lisa Lewis — ONC’s COO — has been named acting national coordinator for health IT (iHealthBeat, 10/29).

Meanwhile, Jacob Reider, deputy national coordinator at ONC, will step down at the end of November to spend more time with his family in Albany, N.Y.

Other top ONC officials who have left the agency in recent months include:

  • Doug Fridsma, who left his post as chief scientist at ONC and on Nov. 1 became president and CEO of the American Medical Informatics Association;
  • Judy Murphy, who stepped down from her role as chief nursing officer and director of ONC’s Office of Clinical Quality and Safety on Oct. 17 to join IBM;
  • Joy Pritts, who left her post as chief privacy officer at ONC in July; and
  • Lygeia Ricciardi, who stepped down as director of ONC’s Office of Consumer eHealth in July (iHealthBeat, 10/24).

Letter Details

In their letter, CHIME and HIMSS said that the “leadership transitions” at ONC “could have a detrimental effect on ONC’s role in HHS’ charge to positively transform our nation’s health system” (Health Data Management, 11/10).

The organizations wrote, “We urge you to fill all ONC leadership positions as soon as possible with well-respected leaders who possess a combination of clinical training and practice, clinical and business informatics expertise, a clear vision for IT’s role in enabling health care transformation and experience in public policy” (CHIME/HIMSS letter, 11/3).

The groups added that they only would support DeSalvo’s new role at HHS “if it is intended to be for a short duration with DeSalvo quickly returning to full-time leadership of ONC” (Health Data Management, 11/10).

CHIME and HIMSS wrote that if “DeSalvo is going to remain as the acting assistant secretary for health with part-time duties in health IT, we emphasize the need to appoint new ONC leadership immediately that can lead the agency on the host of critical issues that must be addressed” (Murphy, EHR Intelligence, 11/7).

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