Dr. David Blumenthal will step down as national coordinator for health IT this spring, Kaiser Health News and many other media outlets reported yesterday.
The news certainly came as a surprise. As recently as Wednesday, Blumenthal was announcing two Direct Project pilot programs. During the webcast, he referred to “our journey to achieve secure health information exchange.” And just last week, in announcing $80 million in health IT grants, he likewise pointed to 2011 as the “next chapter in our journey to adoption and meaningful use of health information technology.”
Though for him the journey is about to end, no one can say it has been boring.
Blumenthal joined the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in early 2009, at a time when the ONC had the arduous tasks of defining meaningful use and certified electronic health record technology; establishing the process that vendors would follow to get EHR software certified; and doling out billions in stimulus funding to help create new regional extension centers, health information exchanges and health IT certificate programs at community colleges.
The ONC had written its regulations by spring 2010, at which time Blumenthal said he was ready to implement health IT policy and in the process, boost both patient and provider confidence in technology as a way to improve care quality and efficiency. (It was a lesson he learned more than a decade ago as a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, and shared at many a speaking engagement, including a health IT conference in Boston in late April.)
After leaving the ONC, Blumenthal plans to return to Harvard University, where he had been a professor of medicine and health care policy, Kaiser reports. Hopefully his students will appreciate what he has done to improve their profession.