Thursday, February 03, 2011

David Blumenthal to Resign as Director of the Office of the National Coordinator of HIT (ONC)


Blumenthal Calls It Quits

Dr. David Blumenthal, who has pushed the country's health care providers to give up paper files in favor of electronic medical records, announced Thursday that he is stepping down as the country's de facto health IT czar after almost two years on the job. He will return to Harvard University, according to news reports.

Blumenthal served as National Coordinator for Health IT during a period of tremendous change. In 2009, Congress allocated billions of dollars to expand the Office of the National Coordinator's authority and to make available incentive funds intended to encourage mass adoption of electronic medical records. The first of those incentives payments were disbursed recently.

... Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, writing in a memo obtained by Kaiser Health News, said that "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."

Despite that progress, however, there has been no shortage of impediments to large-scale adoption, including the dearth of qualified health IT specialists, a lack of certified health IT products [which by the way is an artificial, government and industry lobby-created impediment; "certification" does not equal safe or effective; it's merely a hastily-evaluated features check - ed.], disruptions in work flow caused by the switch to electronic health records [which in large part remain mission hostile to clinical work - ed.] and the challenge of meeting "meaningful use" standards that trigger incentive payments.

I wish Dr. Blumenthal well. ONC Chair is not an easy role, as I'm sure his predecessors would confirm.

My final comment is that the last paragraph might be rearranged as follows:

... Despite the impediments to large scale adoption, however, there has been no shortage of irrational exuberance in the technology, nor progress in taking seriously the risks to patients. Many of the "impediments" are probably not surmountable at our present dearth of understanding of this experimental technology and its sociotechnical complexities, with many in government, medicine and the IT industry dismissing a growing body of "inconvenient" literature (such as here), and these same people and IT merchants ignoring those who do understand those issues (or worse, such as here).

-- SS


Anonymous said...

ONC Chair is not easy because those who sit in the chair are willing puppets for the executive branch. They have little acumen combining clinical medicine and clinical HIT, and have relied on HOM$$ people for advice and policy. As the expression goes, the foxes are guarding the hens, and the current ONC Chair promoted this sham.

Live it or live with IT said...

As is the problem with much of the USG today, I'm not sure that the government employees actually do any work other than issue contracts to organizations or firms to do what the government is charged with doing. In defense of Blumenthal, I don't think he could fix that problem, nor the problem of perception is reality that is typical of DC-think.

Perhaps that is why they seem to understand healthcare related executives; they are mostly all managers without domain expertise.

My bet, Blumenthal will soon land a 7 figure C level job at a HIT vendor or user and/or find himself inundated with paid speaking engagement requests from the same crew.

No fault of his own and perfectly legal, but we will all see that singing the praises of HIT pays off. The more that happens, the louder the choir gets.

Anonymous said...

From the HIT proponent above: "but we will all see that singing the praises of HIT pays off"

CPOE systems will never pay off. The concept and premise behind the concept are flawed.

To go through all of that expense and care disruption, and endangerment with injuries and deaths of patients caused by CPOE devices to correct "handwriting mistakes" is despicable.

This is a device better known as a Rube Goldberg.

Live it or live with IT said...

What I meant by "pay off" was for the "HIT singer" not the patients.

PS: Scott, you heard it here first - "HIT singer" use it as you please!

InformaticsMD said...

Live it or live with IT said...

"HIT Singer"

maybe even better:

"HIT Stinger" - as in, destructive FIM 92 Stinger missile.

-- SS