The outgoing national coordinator for Health IT charted a course for meaningful use of EHRs, accelerated health IT adoption, and spurred cooperation among healthcare stakeholders.
Slideshow: Who's Who In Healthcare IT
Blumenthal should also receive credit for bringing the public and private sectors together to prioritize the digitization of patient records and for putting the U.S. on the path to a modern, integrated information-enabled healthcare system that provides better care and is more efficient, Coffin said. He also noted that even in tough times, Blumenthal moved the health IT agenda forward.
Stephen Lieber, president and CEO of Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), said Blumenthal is leaving behind a legacy of achievement in implementing the President's and Congress' vision of an interoperable healthcare system.
"Despite pressure from many sides, he has been able to pull resources from across the government and the nation, stick to an extremely aggressive schedule set by law, and begin putting the critical pieces into place to establish a safer and more efficient healthcare system in the U.S.," Lieber said. "Dr. Blumenthal clearly understood that the on-going healthcare IT transformation must not leave any community behind and he was pleased that many initiatives, including HIMSS Diversity Business Roundtable and HIMSS Latino Initiative, were launched to specifically address this national challenge."
Blumenthal, who assumed the ONC post in March 2009, led the Obama administration's efforts to implement a nationwide interoperable, privacy-protected HIT infrastructure as called for in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Blumenthal is leaving at a pivotal time as the nation's healthcare delivery organizations transition from a paper-based system to digitized medical records. Under his stewardship, along with billions of dollars from the ARRA, several initiatives were implemented to accelerate EHR adoption.
Last summer ONC, in collaboration with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued meaningful use guidelines that EHR systems at hospitals and physician practices must meet to be eligible for incentive payments.
Listing ONC's achievements during his time in office, Blumenthal wrote in his letter to colleagues that ONC allocated $2 billion to support systems created by the HITECH Act including: 62 Regional Extension Centers, providing assistance to providers nationwide, with special attention to smaller primary care practices and rural hospitals; 84 community college programs to provide HIT training, 17 Beacon communities, demonstrating how HIT can help bring community resources together to tackle specific local health needs.
Additionally, funding also went to states to support local solutions for health information exchange, along with broader national standards for interoperability and a program of research and development to help continually improve EHRs.
Blumenthal also wrote that from 2008 to 2010, the proportion of primary care physicians who had adopted a basic EHR increase by half, from 19.6% to 29.6%; 81% of hospitals, and 41% of office-based physicians recently said that they plan to achieve meaningful use objectives and qualify for incentive payments; a total of 291 EHR products have been certified to support meaningful use; and some 38,000 providers have enrolled in REC assistance programs. Additionally community college programs will "graduate" an initial class of 3,400 HIT-trained students this spring.
"We have achieved these accomplishments together, as a hard-working team with a unique opportunity to make a difference," Blumenthal wrote.