CMS taps physician-informaticist Mark Roche as first CHIO

doctor with tablet
CMS has hired its first chief healthcare informatics officer to lead the agency's clinical, technical and interoperability strategy. (Getty Images)

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has appointed Mark Roche, M.D., as its first chief healthcare informatics officer to lead the agency's clinical, technical and interoperability strategy.

Roche, a former Northwestern University adjunct professor and a former physician adviser to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), will be responsible for helping formulate and implement the clinical and technical aspects of CMS’ interoperability strategy and MyHealthEData initiative, according to CMS Administrator Seema Verma in an email to CMS staff.

Politico first reported Roche's appointment last Thursday, citing his LinkedIn page.

Roche is a physician informaticist with over 16 years of experience working in government, academic and industry sectors on initiatives such as national eHealth strategy, data modeling, and semantic interoperability, according to Verma. 

As a physician adviser at ONC, he led the design of the U.S. interoperability road map and developed components for the 2015 E-certification rule and electronic clinical quality measures in support of CMS’ Meaningful Use Stage 3 program (now the promoting interoperability program).

RELATED: CMS rebrands Meaningful Use, reduces reporting measures

Prior to ONC, Roche worked at the U.S. National Cancer Institute and at Northwestern University as an adjunct professor for the master of science in the medical informatics program.  

In a blog post back in July, Verma said the CHIO will "drive health IT and data sharing to enhance healthcare delivery, improve health outcomes, drive down costs, and empower patients." Through this new function, CMS will effectively engage stakeholders from all parts of the healthcare market, including federal partners and industry leaders, Verma wrote. 

CMS has been looking to fill the position since July. In the CHIO role, Roche will help to drive forward health IT initiatives CMS launched last year, including the Medicare Blue Button 2.0 program and an overhaul of the CMS EHR Incentive Programs to focus on interoperability, according to Verma. She also said CMS' data-driven strategy was another driver for creating the CHIO position.

RELATED: CMS launches new initiatives to expand patient access to health data, plans ‘complete overhaul’ of Meaningful Use

"We are focused on data, not only to inform our strategy, but also to promote patient choice and drive down cost. We are evaluating the data we have and how best to apply it to our mission," she said. "We also are thinking about an application programming interface (API) strategy across the entire agency that will allow us to securely provide data so that software developers, researchers, and others can design useful products (such as apps) powered by it, just as so many companies do to enhance their customer experience."

"The truth is, as the largest healthcare payer in the country, CMS should have had a CHIO function long ago," Verma said. "Despite today’s amazing technology and decades of promises, we are not where we should be."

In the new role, Roche will work across CMS, with federal partners including the U.S. digital service, and alongside private industry and researchers to lead innovation and help inform CMS’ health IT strategy, Verma said.