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New chair brings political IT background to CCHIT

The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) seems to have emphasized political prowess in choosing a new chair to lead the organization through its next stages as it prepares to meet new federal certification mandates.

Karen Bell, a physician, was named chair of the certification body, effective April 26. She replaces fellow physician Mark Leavitt, who has headed CCHIT since its founding in 2004. Leavitt announced last year he was retiring to spend more time with his family.

Where Leavitt’s background included a mix of clinical and medical informatics development in the private sector, Bell has been more involved in health IT public policy. She joins CCHIT from her role as senior vice president for health IT services at Masspro, the Medicare Quality Improvement Organization for Massachusetts. Prior to Masspro, Bell held positions within the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, serving as ONC’s acting deputy, and as director of the Office of Health IT Adoption. Bell also was ONC’s representative on CCHIT’s board of commissioners for three years.

The certification body said Bell’s clinical background, coupled with her health IT policy expertise, were key factors in choosing her as chair. “Her background as a practicing physician, as an expert in health information technology, and in quality assurance efforts in both the public and private sectors makes her uniquely qualified to head the certification commission,” said Frank Trembulak, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Geisinger Health System, and chair of the CCHIT board of trustees, in a written statement.

Bell said her experience as a consensus builder with ONC, as well as her understanding of policy issues, will best serve her in helping to guide CCHIT through the changes coming to the certification process.

In addition, she said she wants to continue the efforts Leavitt has made in building a trusted organization. “We’ve been a very important part of ensuring that some of the barriers to IT have been removed.”

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