The US Department of Health and Human Services has created a new position, deputy assistant secretary for health IT reform, which John Fleming, MD, has told media outlets he will soon fill.
Although HHS has made no formal announcement, Fleming, who is a former member of the House of Representatives, from Louisiana, told Politico and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, that he accepted the job. The spokesperson for HHS hasn’t responded to Journal of AHIMA for requests to comment. While in Congress, Fleming, a former physician, was a member of the House Freedom Caucus and the GOP Doctors Conference, where he worked closely with HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD.
According to the Times-Picayune, Fleming said that he views his job as writing and championing policies that encourage more physicians to embrace technology, rather than view it as a mandated burden. He also supports EHR interoperability. Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, former National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), who shares her home state with Fleming, told Politico, “I know he will bring a commitment to making systems more user friendly for physicians and look forward to his progress in that important work.”
In his interview with Politico, Fleming said he thought that ONC “may be reorganizing,” which has set off a round of speculation in the health IT media about the future of ONC and health IT policy, fueled by the lack of information from HHS about his appointment.
According to sources quoted by HealthData Management, Fleming was one of 116 members of Congress who signed a letter asking the Obama administration to “pause” stage 3 of the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program. And, as Politico noted, he co-sponsored legislation to ease ICD-10 implementation, as well as legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Fleming has also spoken out against the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), due to the burdens he felt the law would place on physicians, according to Modern Healthcare.