Healthcare Dive: Don Rucker reflects on highs and lows of tenure as ONC head and the future of health IT

“The U.S. healthcare industry is notoriously slow to change, a fact evident in the country’s outdated and clunky IT system. Patients’ health data is siloed in various provider and payer databases, making it often extremely difficult to access and control.”

“Modernizing this system is spearheaded on the the federal side by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, an HHS agency that regulates the nation’s health information technology framework. Since April 2017, ONC has been led by longtime medical informatician and emergency physician Don Rucker.”

“Rucker’s tenure has been characterized by efforts to leverage data standards to free up market forces in healthcare, hopefully triggering greater transparency and lower prices for care. The apogee of this work were two HHS regulations released in March prohibiting information blocking and revamping how providers, payers and other health companies exchange data, with the goal of making it easier for patients to control their health information.”

“The rules, which HHS worked on for more than half a decade, are largely bipartisan, but threaten entrenched business models and have faced industry pushback as a result, along with deadline delays during COVID-19. Proponents agree they’ve laid the groundwork for a freer IT infrastructure, but there’s still room for additional growth.”

“Shaping that growth is now in the hands of the Biden administration and Rucker’s successor, Micky Tripathi. The choice was announced in late January to general approbation from the health IT world — and from Rucker. Tripathi is an expert on interoperability and privacy standards, most recently working as chief strategy officer at a population health management company.”

“In a conversation with Healthcare Dive, Rucker looked back at the highs and lows of his time at ONC, shared what still needs fixing in health IT and noted what the future could hold, both for him personally and for the country’s data infrastructure…” Read the full interview here.

Source: Don Rucker reflects on highs and lows of tenure as ONC head and the future of health IT – By Rebecca Pifer, February 17, 2021. Healthcare Dive.

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