Healthcare Business News

ONC announces realignment

By Darius Tahir
Posted: May 30, 2014 - 6:30 pm ET

(Story updated with additional comment at 7:13 p.m. ET.)

Facing the coming exhaustion of its funding from the 2009 economic stimulus law, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT announced the agency's “next functional realignment” in an internal memo.

The memo, written by new agency head Karen DeSalvo, emphasizes that a “flatter and more accountable reporting structure” is necessary to confront new challenges such as interoperability, care transformation, use of health data by consumers, and quality and safety of care.

To accomplish this, the agency is collapsing 17 offices and suboffices into 10. The new structure is described in a notice (PDF) posted Friday on the federal website where documents appear before publication in the Federal Register.

Sources in the industry contacted by Modern Healthcare generally viewed the shuffle as positive.

“As budgets evolve from stimulus levels to normal operating levels, ONC has to narrow the scope of projects, flatten the org structure, and refocus the staffing to do fewer projects at greater depth,” Dr. John Halamka, chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in an email.

“Rather than try to accomplish the goals of every public and private stakeholder simultaneously,” Halamka added, “the new approach will likely focus on high value, low complexity priorities. The 19 proposals for Stage 3 criteria for the meaningful use of EHRs and 18 projects for the standards and interoperability framework, he said, should be nartowed to fewer than five for each. “I'm hopeful that this new alignment will provide the enhanced management oversight and coordination to do that.”

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Bradley Merrill Thompson, an expert in IT regulation with the law firm Epstein Becker Green, said the reorganization “seems like a natural part of the maturing process,” and called the new structure more logical.

“At the same time, as they pivot I'm not entirely sure I understand their mission,” Thompson added. “Much of what they do overlaps in some respects with other agencies. I'm more interested in understanding better what their role will be in the future.”

The new offices and their leaders are:
  • Office of Care Transformation, Kelly Cronin
  • Office of the Chief Privacy Officer, Joy Pritts
  • Office of the Chief Operating Officer, Lisa Lewis
  • Office of the Chief Scientist, Dr. Doug Fridsma
  • Office of Clinical Quality and Safety, Judy Murphy
  • Office of Planning, Evaluation and Analysis, Seth Pazinski
  • Office of Policy, Jodi Daniel
  • Office of Programs, Kim Lynch
  • Office of Public Affairs and Communications, Nora Super
  • Office of Standards and Technology, Steve Posnack
Follow Darius Tahir on Twitter: @dariustahir

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