A July 24 article in Bloomberg Law’s Health Law & Life Sciences News, “Help Wanted: Medicare Looking for Health Tech Expert,” discussed a new push by Medicare to drive health information technology strategy, as evidenced by a recent announcement by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that it is looking to hire its first-ever Chief Health Informatics Officer (CHIO). The new officer will be responsible for setting CMS’s strategy for encouraging the use of electronic health records (EHRs) and the widespread exchange of healthcare records among providers, health plans, and patients, known as interoperability. Day Pitney’s Eric Fader was quoted in the article.Eric told Bloomberg Law that the proposed reduction in federal funding for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) creates a potential leadership void in the health IT space that CMS is well-positioned to fill. The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget request called for $38 million for the ONC, down from the $60 million it received in 2017, and it is anticipated that the ONC will no longer focus on encouraging EHR adoption.
Eric further commented that hiring a CHIO is an admission by CMS that its overall health IT strategy needs improvement. He opined that the need to overhaul CMS’s own IT systems and reconfigure the EHR incentive program, which rewards physicians for using EHRs, to focus on interoperability were reasons enough to create the new position.