ONC's Elise Sweeney Anthony is working to transform the federal health IT infrastructure

Elise Sweeney Anthony is executive director of the Office of Policy, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Age: 40

Education: Elise Sweeney Anthony received her bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University and her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

About her: Since joining the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) in 2013, Elise Sweeney Anthony has led the development of policies to support the health IT needs of patients and to advance the integration of health IT in value-based healthcare. As the head of the Office of Policy, she is focusing on health IT matters across the care continuum, including how health IT can help in efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and the opioid crisis.

This took on a new significance in the past year as she served as the policy architect for ONC’s regulatory implementation of the health IT provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act.

The law outlines new policies transforming how the nation’s healthcare sector deals with sharing electronic health information while protecting patient privacy. The rule, released earlier this year, gives patients the ability to get their health information on their smartphones, advances the prohibition on information blocking of electronic health information and standardizes the use of app-based technology in healthcare. She also led her team in the creation of a new program that funds innovative health information exchange organizations working with public health agencies to respond to public health emergencies, including disasters and pandemics like COVID-19.

Anthony and her team are also working to develop an outcomes-focused Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, which is a collaboration of more than 25 federal organizations. The plan will serve as a roadmap for federal health IT activities for the next five years.

Anthony is a recognized leader in healthcare and health information technology. In March, she launched a webinar and resource series showcasing ONC’s recent health IT policies. She also speaks regularly at a wide range of national stakeholder conferences attended by patients, clinicians, technologists and beyond. Her passion and her approach to policy are anchored in a simple concept—the patient should be at the center of their care.

First job: “In high school, I was a barista at a coffee shop. Funny enough, I am more of a tea person.”

Proudest accomplishment: “I am immensely proud of our work on the Cures Act Final Rule and how it will support a patient-driven, interoperable healthcare landscape. I am also extremely proud of our work to support the development of the Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies. It essentially connects credentialed first responders to a patient’s health information wherever they are caring for the patient in advance of, during, or after an emergency—whether at field hospitals, the location of a disaster, or elsewhere. Getting first responders information on a patient’s health history, medications, and allergies is critical to response efforts and PULSE helps achieve that goal.”

Problem she’s most passionate about trying to solve: “I am passionate about patients and the amazing clinicians that work tirelessly to enable care and promote health. I love working each day with my incredible team to find tangible ways for health IT to inform innovative care delivery, both to the benefit of the patient and their care team.”

Book she recommends to other healthcare leaders: “Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson. I have read it several times. It is a must-read for anyone, especially for those of us at the intersection of healthcare and health IT.”

Advice she would give to her younger self: “Trust your vision.”

What she’d do with her career if it wasn’t this: “I truly love what I do. I imagine that I always will be working to advance the needs of patients and their care teams in some way, and being able to combine policy and technology as a means to that advancement is my dream come true.”

Advice she would offer to healthcare leaders seeking to make a real impact on systemic problems caused by racism: “Listen to the experiences of those who have been impacted by racism. Practice inclusivity within your entire organization—including in your leadership ranks. Address—head on and with the communities you serve—the areas where your organization can have an impact.”

ONC's Elise Sweeney Anthony is working to transform the federal health IT infrastructure