It has been eight years since President George W. Bush instituted the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) and the position of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Sometimes known as “health IT czars,” these heads of ONC have come from differing backgrounds in healthcare, and different sides of the aisle, but all of them have been fiercely dedicated to health IT. Take a look at where they are now. Click on images to enlarge.
David Brailer, MD, was appointed the first National Coordinator in May 2004, and he served until 2006. In this position, Brailer built the effort to bring the United States healthcare system into the information age. He led a bipartisan effort that moved the system toward transparency, quality and efficiency.
Brailer is now the founder and chairman of Health Evolution Partners, a healthcare private equity firm based in San Francisco. Of the Stage 1 meaningful use proposal, Brailer told Healthcare IT News, "It would have been easy to be symbolic rather than meaningful. I'm pretty impressed. The meaningful use criteria are highly consistent with what we did. It feels right to me."
Robert Kolodner, MD, served as National Coordinator from 2006 to 2009. He is now the co-founder and president of Collaborative Transformations LLC, in Columbia, Md., in the Washington, D.C., metro area. The organization provides consulting services to government and nonprofit organizations regarding their health IT strategies and plans. In addition, Kolodner serves as the chief health informatics officer for Open Health Tools, Inc., an Ashville, N.C.-based multinational, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of people through the transformation of open-source health information technologies for personal health, healthcare delivery and population health.
Last August, Kolodner admitted that he is “keeping a low profile” following his retirement as a civil servant of 31 years. Still, he has been anything but idle. It's just that he prefers "to do and then talk," he told Healthcare IT News. The new collaboration between Georgia Tech and the Veterans Administration on health IT innovation – Open Health Tools, Inc. – has Kolodner talking. The forging of partnerships such as this one, which Kolodner was instrumental in achieving, is the focus of the self-proclaimed "recovering fed's" new work in health IT.
David Blumenthal, MD, was the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology from 2009-2011. He helmed the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) in the years immediately following the passage of the $27 billion Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, one of the largest publicly funded infrastructure investments the nation has ever made in such a short time period – in healthcare, or any other field.
This past July, Blumenthal was appointed president of the Commonwealth Fund, based in New York City. He will succeed Karen Davis, effective Jan. 1, 2013. Blumenthal, who is currently Samuel O. Thier Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief health information and innovation officer at Partners HealthCare System in Boston, has also been elected a member of the fund's board of directors. He currently serves as the chairman of the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System.
Farzad Mostashari, MD, joined ONC in July 2009 and was appointed National Coordinator in April 2011. He is known for rousing speeches and non-stop energy and devotion to the transformation of American healthcare, based on three major principles: better care, better health and lowering costs.
At a briefing hosted by the Alliance for Health Reform in Washington, D.C., in September, Mostashari said healthcare IT is crucial, but it's not only about technology. "It's how we use the technology and how we accomplish the goals we set for ourselves."
"Technology is the enabler; the foundation," said Mostashari.
"Patients need to care for themselves and become partners in their care."
"There’s a lot of work still to be done, but the curve is sloping upward; we’re on the steep part of the curve right now," he added. "We’ve set the adoption in place and clearly that is moving. Meaningful use Stage 1 got people on the escalator, but that’s not enough. We need to keep constantly moving up."