A slew of leadership appointments at federal agencies marked Joe Biden’s first official day as president.
The Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology all gained new leadership — though the only permanent appointment is the new head of the ONC.
Dr. Micky Tripathi is the national coordinator for health information technology, according to the HHS website. Liz Richter has taken over as acting administrator for CMS, and Norris Cochran as acting HHS secretary.
A longtime proponent of advancing healthcare interoperability, Tripathi most recently served as chief alliance officer for Arcadia, a population health management and healthcare intelligence platform company.
Prior to that, he was president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, or MAeHC. The collaborative played a key role in leading various signature interoperability and standards activities, including Health Level Seven and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, according to an April 2020 news release from Arcadia. That was the month the population health management company bought selected assets of MAeHC and added Tripathi to its leadership team.
According to Sean Carroll, CEO of Arcadia, Tripathi is a “visionary, a pragmatic problem-solver, and an educator.” While at Arcadia, he steered the company’s interoperability strategy and helped identify new partnerships.
Tripathi is focused on using IT to drive better experiences for providers and better care for patients, Carroll said.
This focus in clear in an article for The New England Journal of Medicine that Tripathi authored along with Dr. John Halamka in 2017. In the article, Tripathi and Halamka argued that the digitization of healthcare “lost the hearts and minds of clinicians.” A lack of infrastructure likely contributed to EHR use becoming overwhelming for physicians, and moving forward, the government should not be overly involved in EHR and interoperability efforts, they wrote.
Tripathi also keeps a firm grasp on the realities of health IT advancement, examining challenges and opportunities through the lens of what is possible and implementable, Carroll said.
“I can’t think of anyone better suited to serve our nation in such a mission-critical role,” he said. “We also shouldn’t under-estimate the value of ‘good people’ — I would triple-check that box for Micky Tripathi.”
Tripathi takes over from Dr. Don Rucker, who he praised in a tweet.
The country owes @donrucker a debt of gratitude for so many ground-breaking contributions leading @ONC_HealthIT. And I personally thank you for assisting my transition with such generosity of spirit and sage advice. You’ve left us very well-prepared for the work ahead!
— Micky Tripathi (@mickytripathi1) January 21, 2021
The acting leaders appointed to head CMS and HHS are agency veterans.
Richter has worked with CMS for the past three decades. She is deputy director of the Center for Medicare, prior to which she was director of the hospital and ambulatory policy group in the Center for Medicare Management. Biden has not yet nominated a permanent CMS administrator.
Cochran will serve as HHS’ interim leader while Biden’s pick Xavier Becerra awaits Senate confirmation. Cochran is the HHS’ deputy assistant secretary of budget. He began working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1996 and joined HHS a decade later. He previously served as acting HHS secretary during the Trump Administration.
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