Robert Kolodner, the outgoing head of the Office of the National Coordinator, received a warm farewell, including a standing ovation, at the 2009 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention in Chicago on Monday.
Dave Roberts, vice president of government relations for HIMSS, got the crowd of about 400 people on its feet along with Koloders key staffers during a town-hall session on federal healthcare promotion activities through the ONC.
In March, President Barack Obama named David Blumenthal, a physician and healthcare policy expert, to succeed Kolodner. Blumenthal will start later this month.
Roberts recalled the time of transition in 2006 when Kolodner was named to replace David Brailer, the first ONC leader.
When Dr. Brailer left, it was said youd have big shoes to fill, Roberts said. I think Dr. Blumenthal has even bigger shoes to fill. None of this would have been possible without you continuing the momentum. We cannot thank you enough.
Kolodner used part of the session to recount the accomplishments of the ONC under his watch, including developing a five-year IT plan, a privacy and security framework and advancing the proposed national health information network through the testing phase and into the first stage of real-world production.
Even so, Kolodners legacy at ONC has been tempered by thoughts of what might have been. Both Kolodner and his predecessor were limited by the political ideology of the Bush administration, which ordered ONC to carry on with no additional federal funding under the banner of a private sector, magic of the markets approach.
Both he and Brailer had ONC budgets in the $50 million to $60 million range. In contrast, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 recently appropriated $2 billion for the ONC to allocate and spend on healthcare IT grants and loans. The stimulus act also authorized, by some estimates, more than $30 billion for IT bonus payments to be paid through the federally funded Medicare and Medicaid programs. Kolodner mentioned the funding disparity only in passing.
We needed some foundational work, Kolodner said. Five years ago we didnt have broad and substantive, federal, state and private-sector cooperation for HIT. It has taken the work of thousands of people participating across the country.
But while Blumenthal will inherit a funding bonanza, he also will face an accelerated work schedule with deadlines mandated by Congress in the stimulus act. Kolodner outlined the ONC calendar as follows: