Patience will define Tavenner's tenure, health IT leaders say

The ability to listen first and take action second has been key to Marilyn Tavenner's success in leading the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services since 2010, according to several FierceHealthIT Editorial Advisory Board members. However, they say, how well she continues to practice such patience in the face of politics will be what ultimately defines her tenure at CMS.

"For now, she seems to really want to come in and listen first, and then build a plan," Roger Neal (right), vice CIO and vice president of Duncan (Okla.) Regional Medical Center, tells FierceHealthIT in an email. "We'll see how that goes."

Stephen Stewart, CIO at Henry County Health Center in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, agrees, calling Tavenner's confirmation this week a good thing.

"From meeting her, I believe she will lead a listening culture, at least for a while," Stewart (left) tells FierceHealthIT. "While political dynamics could change all of that, for the moment it looks positive.

Boston-based health attorney David Harlow calls Tavenner's appointment a "stay the course" action, adding that her combination of private sector and government experience give her both the credibility and the chops manage the agency. From a health IT perspective, he says her involvement in the implementation of Meaningful Use regulations, as well as her public statements on the need to work more on interoperability, have been invaluable, so far.

However, Harlow (right) adds, "on that [health IT] front, it remains to be seen whether CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT can move the needle in the near term."

Drexel DeFord, CIO at Boston-based Steward Health Care, remains optimistic about Tavenner's ability have a successful impact on the industry, as she makes the transition from acting director to her now-official role.

"I'm always hopeful when there's a new sheriff in town," DeFord (left) tells FierceHealthIT. "If she can stay above the fray, then I think we'll continue to make progress on health IT issues nationally."

Tavenner has received endorsements from several medical groups after being confirmed by the Senate to head CMS on Wednesday, including the American Medical Association, the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. In a letter submitted to the Senate when Tavenner was nominated in February, HIMSS said that her leadership has been key to the progress of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Program.