Health IT community applauds new ONC pick

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Health IT leaders reacted favorably to news that former Siemens executive Donald Rucker would take over as national coordinator.

Health IT industry leaders and associations reacted favorably to news that former Siemens executive Donald Rucker, M.D., would serve as the national coordinator for health IT, highlighting his vast industry experience in both the provider and vendor communities.

On Friday, FierceHealthcare reported that Rucker had been identified in the Department of Health and Human Services directory as the national coordinator at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). Rucker served as the chief medical officer at Siemens for 13 years before transitioning to a career as a professor of clinical emergency medicine and biomedical informatics at Ohio State University in 2013.

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The selection, which has not been officially announced by HHS, generated widespread support from former ONC national coordinators, including Jacob Reider, M.D., CEO at Alliance for Better Healthcare, who served as the interim acting national coordinator prior to Karen DeSalvo’s appointment, and then served as deputy national coordinator under DeSalvo in 2014.

On Friday, Reider told FierceHealthcare Rucker is “a very qualified national coordinator.”

“Don is a good pick,” he added. “I’m very pleased and proud of whoever it was that made this decision.”

DeSalvo, along with former national coordinators Vindell Washington and Farzad Mostashari also offered their congratulations to Rucker on Twitter.

 

Acting National Coordinator Jon White, M.D., who told FierceHealthcare he will return to his post as deputy national coordinator, worked with Rucker during the beginnings of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology ten years ago.

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Industry associations also weighed in on the new appointment, noting that Rucker’s experience gives him a unique perspective of the needs of both providers and vendors. During his time at Siemens, Rucker helped Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center integrate a new computerized physician order entry solution that was awarded the Nicholas E. Davies award from HIMSS in 2003.

College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) spokesperson Matthew Weinstock said the organization is still waiting for an official announcement but noted that Rucker is “obviously extremely knowledgeable on healthcare and health IT.”

“I think having been on both sides of that will certainly be helpful in that role since he has to navigate both provider expectations, but also ONC is in charge of the certification process for EHRs,” he added.

In an emailed statement to FierceHealthcare, American Medical Informatics Association President and CEO Doug Fridsma, M.D., characterized Rucker as “an exceptionally qualified informatician,” adding that his leadership will be vital as the health IT industry faces significant challenges in integrating data analytics and advancing EHR adoption and usability.

“Our evolving healthcare system will require professionals who understand how to collect, analyze and apply data so that we can turn that data into knowledge, and knowledge into action,” Fridsma said. “Given Dr. Rucker’s background and experience, we are confident he understands the challenges that lie ahead and the importance of informatics in this next stage of health IT.”