Donald Trump’s latest government picks continue hints of health technology regulatory relief

Sign that says "changes ahead"
Trump's picks signal changes ahead, including for health IT regulations. Image: Getty/_ba_

The list of President Donald Trump’s political appointees who favor deregulation—including limiting burdens of regulatory programs such as Meaningful Use—continues to grow.

Last week, Anna Abram was named the FDA’s new deputy commissioner for policy, planning, legislation and analysis. She’s one of more than 400 new hires leading the transition at agencies including HHS, where 35 new “beachhead” team members have landed.

Some of them have lobbying pedigrees, while others have served in government roles that offer clues about the new administration’s priorities on everything from health IT to Medicaid policy.

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Previously, Abram served as a health policy director and senior adviser on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and has also been a staffer for Sen. Richard Burr, a republican from North Carolina.

Burr has been an advocate of providing “regulatory flexibility and hardship relief to providers and hospitals operating under the Meaningful Use program.”

Another appointee also signaled change could lie ahead at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT—starting with a change the agency’s head.

Former Rep. John Fleming, R-La., was just named deputy assistant secretary for health technology at HHS. Fleming told Politico that he thought he was interviewing for the coordinator position, but also said the deputy assistant secretary post is "the same or a similar position."

Earlier this month, advocacy group Health IT Now called for HHS to reevaluate the ONC's role, particularly when it comes to EHR certification. 

As a family medicine physician, Fleming has worked closely with HHS Secretary Tom Price in the past and expects to shape policies that improve physicians' use of health technology.

RELATED: Former Louisiana representative tapped for health IT post at HHS, raising questions about ONC reorganization

Price himself has been vocal about easing some of the federal health information technology requirements for providers. A physician, he’s a fan of health IT and innovation in general, but he’s said that electronic medical records, in particular, create a barrier between patients and their doctors, disrupting doc’s workflow and giving them less time to concentrate on patient care.  

“We’ve turned many physicians and other providers into data entry clerks and it detracts … from their productivity but it detracts greatly from their ability to provide quality care,” he said during the confirmation process.

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“The electronic medical record and electronic health records are so important from an innovative standpoint; [they] allow the patient the opportunity to have their health history with them at all times and be able to allow whatever physician or other provider access to that,” he added.

“We in the federal government have a role in that, but that role ought to be interoperability; to make certain that different systems can talk to each other so that it inures to the benefit of the patient.”