The health IT leaders point to multiple leadership changes within the ONC that add to possible instability in the agency.
Can Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, juggle two positions within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)? Leaders of some of the top health IT organizations say no, and have asked that she be replaced with a full-time director.
With interoperability between electronic health records systems, meaningful use and healthcare data security at the top of IT concerns, leaders from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) wrote a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell requesting immediate action in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).
“If Dr. 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,” the health IT leaders wrote.
On October 24, DeSalvo was appointed by Burwell to be the acting assisting secretary to the U.S. Ebola response team, a role she will perform while still serving as national coordinator of ONC. The health IT leaders point to multiple leadership changes within the ONC that add to possible instability in the agency. They suggest that the ONC employ steady leadership for the next two years.
“The combination of skills and focus is paramount; without it, we question whether our nation can successfully address the next challenging level of Meaningful Use and the delivery reforms required in the Affordable Care Act,” the letter states. “Overall, a strong and viable ONC must address the immediate and long-term requirements for healthcare transformation.”
The latest meaningful use 2 attestation numbers released in November show that providers and hospitals are mostly unprepared for upcoming deadlines that could result in penalties. In October, the ONC released a roadmap that detailed full health IT interoperability by 2024.