Former ONC chief Blumenthal to lead Commonwealth Fund

By Mike Miliard
03:24 PM

David Blumenthal, MD, who was the national coordinator for health IT from 2009 to 2011, has been appointed president of the Commonwealth Fund. 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, say Commonwealth officials. He currently serves as the chairman of the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System.

[See also: Blumenthal steps down from ONC.]

The Commonwealth Fund, which was founded in 1918 and has an endowment of $700 million, works towards improving the performance of the U.S. healthcare system, working to achieve "better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society's most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults."

"We are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Blumenthal take the helm of the Fund at a crucial time in the drive to achieve a high performance health system," said Commonwealth Fund board chairman James R. Tallon, Jr. "If the U.S. is to realize the triple aims of better health, better care, and lower cost, it will need over the next 10 years unstinting efforts by health policy and practice leaders like Dr. Blumenthal. He is ideally suited to carry forward The Commonwealth Fund’s significant role in advancing delivery and payment system changes that will improve system performance."

As national coordinator, Blumenthal spearheaded efforts to construct an interoperable, private, and secure nationwide health information system and to support the widespread, meaningful use of health IT.

He helmed the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) in the years immediately following the passage of the The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which Commonwealth officials point out was 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.

[See also: Blumenthal pauses to reflect on ONC's HITECH achievements so far.]

"With his national stature, broad experience, and skill in leading while building consensus, Dr. Blumenthal is perfectly suited to lead the foundation in moving the U.S. health care system to one that achieves access to safe, high-quality, efficient, and effective care for all Americans," said Davis. "He is already providing strong leadership of the Fund’s Commission on a High Performance Health System, and will be able to move swiftly into leading the Fund as a whole."

Blumenthal lauded the achievements of Davis, who has served as Commonwealth Fund president since 1995.

"Karen Davis is one of the outstanding thinkers and leaders on healthcare reform," he said. "She positioned the foundation to make a major contribution to the recent healthcare reform debate and to the implementation of enacted reforms."

She has helped build the Commonwealth Fund into an "extremely strong institution for advancing efforts to tackle the major problems in our healthcare system, with particular attention to healthcare for vulnerable populations," he added. "In leading the Commonwealth Fund, my aim will be to honor Karen’s leadership by ensuring that we continue to contribute significantly to the breakthroughs in performance that are needed to make our health system sustainable."

[See also: Blumenthal hails the 'era of meaningful use'.]

Before his time at ONC, Blumenthal was a practicing primary care physician; director of the Institute for Health Policy; and professor of medicine and health policy at Massachusetts General Hospital/Partners Healthcare System and Harvard Medical School. He is the author of more than 250 books and scholarly publications, including most recently, Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office.

He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and a former board member and national correspondent for the New England Journal of Medicine. He has also served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research; is the founding chairman of AcademyHealth, the national organization of health services researchers; and a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.