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Fed HIT Chief Blumenthal to Step Down

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 3, 2011

National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David Blumenthal, MD, who helped craft regulations to speed healthcare providers' adoption of electronic record systems, and execute a $27 billion incentive program, is stepping down in the spring to return to Harvard Medical School.

In a memo to staff, Blumenthal wrote: "We are already seeing results that indicate that the national shift to (electronic health records) and (health information technology)-assisted care is finally underway."

Between 2008 and 2010, he said, the percentage of primary care physicians had increasingly adopted basic electronic health records increased from 19.6% to 29.6%.

Blumenthal was appointed to the position in late March of 2009. Before joining the Obama administration, he directed the Institute for Health Policy at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Partners HealthCare System in Boston. He also was professor of medicine and healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School.

In a memo to staff, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said "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."

"This was his plan when he joined ONC," the memo said.

Under meaningful use criteria, providers received incentive payments for switching from paper to electronic medical records if they satisfied certain criteria, which have been set in stages over the next several years. The first incentive checks were sent to doctors in January.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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