After Kolodner, then what?

WASHINGTON – With Robert Kolodner himself stating he has roughly two months left of his interim tenure as leader of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Washington insiders are abuzz about who might be in line to succeed him.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs said Kolodner’s “detail” is 120 days long, which would make his last day at ONC “somewhere at the end of January.” As far as she knows, he will be returning to his position as chief health informatics officer at the Veterans Health Administration. “They are expecting him back,” she said.

David Brailer, former ONC national coordinator, confirmed it is no surprise that Kolodner is going sooner rather than later. “I can only tell you that Rob’s title is intentionally `Interim National Coordinator,’” Brailer told Healthcare IT News. “At this time, he is doing this role on a temporary basis (and doing a great job, I might add).”

Jodi Daniel, director of the ONC Office of Policy and Research was one of four ONC directors who held down the fort last summer while ONC searched for a leader to replace Brailer. If need be, they are prepared to do that again. “We really do have well thought-through activities and lots of contracts and other ongoing work. We would continue to manage these processes and keep all these balls up in the air and continue what has already been established,” she said.

Daniel said, however, that Kolodner is “doing great work” and would like to see him stay indefinitely.

An informal survey of industry insiders and federal and legislative sources conducted by Healthcare IT News revealed little to nothing.

One source, who did not want to be named, speculated that the ONC National Coordinator position is hard to fill because no one wants the job – it has no permanency, it’s high pressure, uncertain results could take place, and it’s a position that makes it easy to “tick off” fellow industry leaders.

 This leads many to believe that there is no replacement in the works–at least not yet. Brailer said: “The search for the National Coordinator continues and the [HHS] Secretary will have more to say in public about it in the future.”