New National Coordinator for Health IT Has Broad Range of Experience
Micky Tripathi – a longtime health IT expert with deep roots in secure health information exchange and interoperability issues – will be the new head of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.
ONC coordinates nationwide efforts to implement advanced health information technology and the secure electronic exchange of health information. HHS revealed the Biden administration’s selection of Tripathi on Thursday.
ONC is overseeing several important 21st Century Cures Act health IT provisions, including regulations that prohibit the blocking of patient information sharing and others designed to promote health IT interoperability and secure health information exchange. That includes giving patients secure access to their health records via smartphones and standards-based application programming interfaces.
In the top job at ONC, Tripathi succeeds Donald Rucker, M.D., who held the position for the last four years under the Trump administration.
HHS’s updated leadership page noted Tripathi’s role Thursday, along with a host of other HHS appointments.
Robinsue Frohboese has been named acting director of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, which oversees HIPAA enforcement.
She replaces acting director March Bell, who took over Jan. 15 after the departure of the Trump administration’s longtime OCR director, Roger Severino. Frohboese was previously OCR’s principal deputy.
Tripathi has held an array of leadership roles, including being a member of federal standards advisory panels during the formative years of the HITECH Act’s financial incentive program for the adoption of electronic health records during the Obama administration.
Most recently, Tripathi was chief alliance officer at Arcadia, a population health management technology company, and a board member of the HL7 standards organization’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources effort. FHIR is a standard for electronically exchanging healthcare information.
Earlier, Tripathi was a member of the boards of directors at the CommonWell Health Alliance and The Sequoia Project. He served as CEO at the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, a now-defunct consultancy, and the Indiana Health Information Exchange.
Tripathi has experience dealing with data breaches in a transparent fashion.
Following a 2011 breach involving an unencrypted laptop stolen from a Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative employee’s car, he shared lessons learned in a blog as well as in interviews and at presentations at industry events.
The breach, which affected about 1,000 patients of the consultancy’s physician group practice clients, cost almost $300,000 to resolve, he disclosed.
In an interview with Information Security Media Group in 2012, Tripathi said: “I, especially as a CEO, took individual responsibility for not providing the leadership and not providing the policies and not providing the tools to those on the front line who were just trying to do their jobs and just trying to do the right thing.”
A Good Fit?
Former healthcare CIO John Halamka, now president of Mayo Clinic Platform – who worked with Tripathi on several initiatives – says Tripathi is a strong pick to lead ONC.
“He understands technology, policy and culture. Sometimes policy and culture are more complex than technology,” Halamka says.
As the leader of HL7’s early FHIR work, called the Argonaut Project, Tripathi “understands how standards are made and adopted,” Halamka says. “He’ll be able to accelerate interoperability because of his great depth. He has incredible equanimity – he’s fair, balanced and genuine. The entire IT community trusts him.”
Privacy attorney Deven McGraw, former deputy director of health information privacy at OCR who previously worked with Tripathi on health IT standards efforts, agrees that he’s a solid choice for the top ONC job.
“Micky has very deep experience in health information technology and interoperability, and he has approached these issues through multiple roles – for example, leading data exchange standards and implementation efforts, and in developing workable policies to govern health information exchange,” says McGraw, co-founder and chief regulatory officer at the technology firm Ciitizen Corp. “Frankly, it is the perfect mix of background and experience to lead ONC at this particular time, given the emphasis on interoperability and portability of digital health information to meet a wide range of needs. I hope Micky will strengthen the relationship between ONC and OCR so that those offices create and enforce policy that is better aligned.”
Tripathi did not immediately respond to an Information Security Media Group request for comment.