CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald recuses herself from health IT decisions because of financial conflicts

CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald has recused herself from health IT decisions but says those recusals are "very limited."

An ethics agreement that requires CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald to recuse herself from health information technology decisions has prompted one senator to question her ability to lead the agency.

According to an ethics agreement obtained by the Washington Post, Fitzgerald is required to avoid government business tied to cancer detection and health IT because of financial holdings in companies that pose a potential conflict of interest. Greenway Health, an EHR and revenue cycle management company, is one of the companies that Fitzgerald and her husband have invested in through two limited liability companies.

In an interview with the Post, Fitzgerald said the agreement requires her to recuse herself on “many particular matters,” but added the recusals are “very limited.”

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But the ethics agreement raised a red flag for Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., who highlighted conflicts with software used for prescription drug monitoring programs. Although her ethics agreement does not specifically mention PDMPs, Greenway Health has worked on initiatives involving electronic prescribing and PDMPs.

In a letter to Fitzgerald, Murray wrote that she was concerned the Trump-appointed administrator “cannot perform the role of CDC director while being largely recused from matters pertaining to cancer and opioids.”

The concerns come at a time when the CDC is exploring new ways to use data and pull information from hospital EHRs to track potential public health threats. In September, the agency awarded $28.6 million in data-driven initiatives across 44 states aimed at combating opioid addiction.