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Brailer Resigns as Administration Point Man for Health Care IT

APRIL 20, 2006 -- In an announcement that surprised Hill aides and other health policy analysts, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed Thursday that National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David J. Brailer has resigned.

A statement by HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt gave no reason for the resignation, and Brailer himself could not be reached for comment. But Brailer told the Financial Times on Thursday that "it's been a huge personal agony" to leave his family in San Francisco each week to commute to Washington.

Leavitt said he accepted the resignation "with regret," adding that "over the past two years, David has made significant progress in advancing the president's health IT agenda and laying the building blocks for future progress."

Brailer tendered his resignation with no successor in place. Leavitt said Brailer will continue to serve as a consultant to HHS on health care IT. In addition, Leavitt said Brailer has agreed to serve as a vice chairman of the American Health Information Community, the public–private advisory group charged with making recommendations to Leavitt on IT standards.

Leavitt said the work of the Office of the National Coordinator will continue under the four directors below Brailer on the organization chart.

During his tenure, Brailer had to struggle to retain funding for his office at a time when the administration promoted health care IT as a top priority.

Brailer generally drew good marks on the Hill for his efforts, though Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., has been strongly critical of the administration's failure to promote widespread use of an electronic health record system developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"He's really shaped the field," said Michael Zamore, policy adviser to Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, D-R.I., who has championed IT legislation in the House. "Brailer has coalesced government and private sector activities in the field. There's more of a road map than there was before."

Zamore added that "there's no particularly good time to leave" given the various pending administration initiatives to move ahead on IT. "I'm sure it's exhausting to operate on a shoestring and fight internal battles to coordinate federal efforts on IT."

The eHealth Initiative, an industry group, praised Brailer for effectively communicating the importance of information technology. "Much groundwork has been laid through his leadership, the creation of the office, and the many contracts that were issued to support the development and adoption of standards for interoperability," said the group's CEO, Janet Marchibroda.

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