Dr. Peter Basch, medical director for electronic health records and health IT policy at MedStar Health, Columbia, Md., said Blumenthal's prior use of electronic health-record systems in his medical practice served him well in his ONC job.
“Really, from the beginning—he was chosen as a non-IT person leading the IT strategy—I felt comfortable,” said Basch, a member of three work groups of the Health IT Policy Committee, an advisory panel established to guide the ONC under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “Someone who has practiced medicine using IT was the right person. David has focused on making it real and meaningful and was not distracted by what I'd call the flashing lights.”
Dr. William Bria, chief medical information officer at the Shriners Hospitals for Children, Tampa, and president of the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems, a professional association for physician informaticists, noted the challenges Blumenthal and the ONC have faced in the past two months.
They include a report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology that was somewhat critical of the ONC's pace and sense of direction with the federal IT program, legislation in the House seeking to strip unexpended funds from the electronic health-record system incentive program, and some grumblings from providers about the program's meaningful use requirements.
In light of this “nibbling at the edges” of the government's health IT initiative, Bria said he would have preferred “a completely stable platform of individuals and leadership at least going into the rest of this year.”
“He's built enough of a team and enough of a legacy, there has been enough support, including from our organization, to get this done.” Bria added. “I think America is on a threshold of a major transformation of improving its healthcare environment.”
Dr. Paul Tang, vice president and chief medical information officer at the Palo Alto (Calif.) Medical Foundation and vice chairman of the Health IT Policy Committee, described Blumenthal in an e-mail as “a superb national coordinator who accomplished an enormous amount in his two-year tenure.”
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society CEO Stephen Lieber echoed the praise. “Despite pressure from many sides, he has been able to pull resources from across the government and the nation, stick to an extremely aggressive schedule set by law and begin putting the critical pieces into place to establish a safer and more efficient healthcare system in the U.S.”