He ordered the coordinator to begin work on a national HIT strategy to promote the adoption and use of interoperable electronic health records to enhance clinical decisionmaking, improve quality, lower costs, reduce errors, improve coordination of care and ensure the privacy and security of patient data. He said the office should “not assume or rely upon additional federal resources or spending” to do its work. And in fact, later that year Congress zeroed out the ONC's $50 million budget request for 2005, forcing Thompson to finance the agency by reshuffling HHS' administrative funds.
The ONC was started “because America was clearly behind a lot of other developed countries with a health information infrastructure,” said Dr. Paul Tang, chief innovation and technology officer at the Palo Alto (Calif.) Medical Foundation who serves on several ONC advisory panels.
In its first decade, the ONC has had “an extraordinarily important” impact on healthcare, said Dr. John Halamka, chief information officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston. “Over the 10 years of ONC, we have tripled adoption of EHRs and brought health information exchange into the common vocabulary,” Halamka said.
Brailer was succeeded as ONC coordinator by Dr. Robert Kolodner, Dr. David Blumenthal, Dr. Farzad Mostashari, and now Dr. Karen DeSalvo. “Each of the coordinators has had a unique role to play,” Halamka said. “I would say each person was optimally chosen for the era in which they served and each had a totally different personality.”