Direct Project champion to leave ONC

By Mary Mosquera
10:00 AM

Arien Malec, who coordinated the development of the Direct Project exchange protocols, is leaving the government’s Office of the National Coordinator to return to the private sector.

Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national health IT coordinator, said Malec’s “groundbreaking work will help healthcare providers immeasurably with exchanging information to improve patient care.”

“His skillful touch in coordinating among numerous stakeholders, his combination of policy and technical savvy, and his positive, can-do attitude were marvels to behold, and a real service to the country,” Mostashari said in an announcement.

Direct is a version of secure messaging that providers can use in simple push exchanges of information, such as referrals and lab results.
Malec has also performed same role of coordinating the individuals and organizations involved in improving the specifications and descriptions for establishing exchange standards, such as in transitions of care, for ONC’s Standards and Interoperability Framework.

Malec, who is based on the West Coast, had planned a short-term, nine-month effort when he took on the Direct Project, said Doug Fridsma, MD, ONC’s director of standards and interoperability.

“In the past year and a half, he has successfully built a solid foundation for nationwide interoperability and exchange through his creative and diligent leadership of the Direct Project and the S&I Framework,” Fridsma said in the announcement, in which he cited Malec’s resignation letter.

Malec said in his letter that “working for ONC has been like working for the world’s biggest startup. People in startups may think they are in it for the big exit, but most of them are really in it for the thrill of the mission – working with amazing people and doing the impossible every few months to change the world for the better.”

Prior to coming to ONC, Malec was vice president for product management at RelayHealth consumer group at McKesson.

Jitin Asnaani will step in as the S&I Framework coordinator and as interim coordinator for the Direct Project, Fridsma said. Asnaani has been a coordinator for two of the framework’s initiatives and has had a role in helping state health information exchanges to establish Direct specifications.

Previously, Asnaani has been the director of product management at an open source health IT startup and a manager in Deloitte Consulting's corporate strategy practice.