New ONC Head is a Hit with Health IT Insiders

In another piece of potentially good news for those with a vested interest in telehealth and health IT, President Donald Trump has selected a well-regarded industry veteran to helm the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). Though the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has yet to officially comment on the appointment, Health Data Management and others report that Donald Rucker is the administration’s choice to head the office. Further, Rucker is already getting positive reviews from industry leaders, including former ONC heads and former colleagues. “I am excited that the ONC team will have a leader so early in the Administration so they can press on with their important work,” Karen DeSalvo, who headed ONC under President Barack Obama, told Health Data Management, also noting that Rucker’s professional background made him “well qualified.” The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and the American Medical Informatics Association also praised the choice, with a CHIME spokesman commenting that Rucker’s work as a physician as well as in the development of electronic records systems will be useful in his new role: “I think having been on both sides of that will certainly be helpful in that role since he has to navigate both provider expectations, but also ONC is in charge of the certification process for EHRs,” spokesman Matthew Weinstock said in a statement to Fierce Healthcare.

A physician by training, specializing in emergency medicine, Rucker most recently served as chief medical officer at Premise Health, a Tennessee-based company that focuses on workplace wellness programs. He also spent more than a decade working as chief medical officer at Siemens, and has taught clinical emergency medicine at Ohio State University. Rucker’s work has often focused on facilitating the use of electronic health records. His Ohio State bio notes that, while working at company Datamedic, “he co-developed the world’s first Microsoft Windows-based electronic medical record.” In 2003, while at Siemens, he was part of a team that developed a HIMSS-award winning computerized physician order entry workflow for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Rucker also has federal government experience, having served, per his Ohio State bio, as a member of Medicare’s Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee (MEDCAC), among work that he’s done with other federal agencies and Congress. Along with that of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who seems eager to prioritize telemedicine; and the selection of Demetrios Kouzoukas, who has previously worked with ONC, as deputy CMS administrator; Rucker’s appointment appears to be inspiring optimism among the health IT community–amid a health care landscape that, with talk of “repeal and replace” continuing, still feels uncertain.

Click here for the article from Health Data Management on Rucker’s appointment.

Click here for the article from Fierce Healthcare on the Rucker appointment. 

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