Dr. David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health IT for the Department of Health and Human Services, announced in a staff memo late last week he would step down in the spring.
Blumenthal, who will return to Harvard University, was appointed by President Barack Obama in March 2009 to lead efforts on electronic health records. According to Harvard rules, Blumenthal would lose tenure if he didn’t return to his post there within two years, Kaiser Health News reported.
Blumenthal took office shortly after the HITECH Act, which enshrined health IT practices into law, took effect in 2009. He oversaw broad efforts to define and implement “meaningful use” of electronic health records and a nationwide health information exchange.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised Blumenthal’s leadership on EHRs.
“In the last two years, our nation has finally turned the corner in our critically important journey to the use of health information technology, particularly the adoption of electronic health records,” she said, adding that HHS would conduct a national search to find a replacement.
Other HHS officials noted the foundation Blumenthal will leave behind.
“The pace of EHR adoption, health information exchange and quality measurement has rapidly accelerated during his tenure,” said John Halamka, CIO at Harvard Medical School and vice chair of the health IT standards committee, in an email to InformationWeek. “I’m confident that the policy and technology foundation he has built will serve the country for years to come.”
Blumenthal is the third official to hold the ONC position since the post was created in 2004.