Former Siemens exec to serve as ONC head

Dive Brief:

  • Donald Rucker, who previously served as Siemens Healthcare's vice president and chief medical officer, will serve as the next head of the HHS' Office of National of Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), the agency's newly updated directory shows, as originally reported by Politico Pro
  • Former ONC head Farzad Mostashari, who is now the co-founder and CEO of health consulting company Aledade, tweeted his support for the new appointment shortly after the news broke. 
  • Rucker has been a professor of clinical emergency medicine and biomedical informatics at Ohio State University for the past four years, his LinkedIn profile shows. 

Dive Insight:

The update to the HHS directory comes just as the healthcare industry was questioning whether the position would remain or be eliminated. Earlier this month, HHS Secretary Tom Price named former Louisiana congressman John Fleming to be the deputy assistant secretary for health technology. This raised questions about whether the newly created position within the agency would replace the ONC. 

In addition, federal officials announced last Thursday that a new health IT committee –  the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee​ – will replace two existing ones – the Health Information Technology Policy Committee and the Healthcare IT Standards Committee, according to Healthcare IT News.  

On his LinkedIn biography, Rucker describes himself as a "physician leader with national clinical informatics success.” He states he was a co-developer of the first Microsoft Windows-based electronic medical record. He has a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a business degree from Stanford Graduate School of Business and a computer science degree from Stanford University.

As the healthcare industry becomes more and more digitalized, the ONC's role in the transformation has been crucial. The office has been working to improve interoperability, encourage the adoption of EHRs and move the industry forward with the Precision Medicine Initiative. It has also worked in collaboration with the HHS' Office of Civil Rights on sharing health data

The last ONC head, Dr. Vindell Washington, recently shared some advice with Healthcare Dive on how the next the administration could help keep the momentum going with health IT. Vindell recommended addressing the culture of technology adoption and continuing public-private partnerships. He also emphasized the need for common standards, which are needed now more than ever, for information-sharing. 

Last month, Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator for CMS, called on the healthy IT industry to do better as clinicians have expressed many concerns and frustrations with certain products, particularly with EHRs. Yet he does not think that "anybody should lose promise in the power of what technology can do.” Mostashari now wants Rucker to call on the health IT community. 

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Filed Under: Health IT Policy & Regulation
Top image credit: Wikipedia