Federal health IT coordinator Blumenthal to step down

Tuesday - 2/8/2011, 3:33pm EST

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

Dr. David Blumenthal will step down as the head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

According to a Feb. 3 memo to his staff, Blumenthal said he will return to Harvard University where he was a policy professor before President Obama appointed him to lead ONC in March 2009, Gov Health IT reports.

Blumenthal planned to stay two years when he accepted the position with ONC, he said in the memo.

In that role, Blumenthal led the government's efforts to drive the adoption of electronic health records by physicians and hospitals. He encouraged public-private partnerships to move providers from paper to digital.

In January, Blumenthal joined Federal News Radio to discuss the incentive program at the Department of Health and Human Services to use e-health records.

He said, "As you think about the President's economic program, his talk about competitiveness, his talk about planning an economy that has a future, this is right in the bulls-eye of that plan because we're building with these private partners, an industry that's going to get its own wind as a result of the innovation that is getting started."

More than 13,000 applicants have registered for the program.

Blumenthal also told Federal News Radio that the wide usage of e-health systems will improve health care overall.

"[Health providers] are going to innovate every day at the bedside, they're going to make requests of vendors to upgrade their products and the competition among vendors to meet that demand will create a virtuous cycle," he said. "The federal government at that point will just be a bystander that gave a jump start to an industry that was on the verge of exploding and we just tipped it over the edge."