HHS adds new health technology leadership post

A former Louisiana congressman and physician has been appointed to a new healthcare technology position within HHS, which is causing confusion as to what the future holds for the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

Former Republican Rep. John Fleming served in Congress for the Louisiana's fourth congressional district from 2009 to 2017, losing his seat to make an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate. As first reported by NOLA.com, Fleming said the job offer came about after he reached out to new HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, after Price was nominated by President Donald Trump.

He described his role as encouraging physicians to embrace technology by removing regulations, working on extra financial incentives for offices that utilize technology and reduce the paperwork burden on doctors.

“I just want to be a part of taking down the barriers that are preventing innovation,” he said to NOLA.com.

That role sounds quite similar to what’s been handled by ONC. Fleming told POLITICO he thought he was interviewing for the national coordinator job, and indicated this may be a sign of consolidation within HHS.

“They may be reorganizing,” Fleming said. “But that’s purely speculation. No one from HHS has told me that.”

On health policy, Fleming has shared may of the same views as his new boss Price. He signed onto letters advocating a delay for Stage 3 of Meaningful Use and had suggested the final rule implementing the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) would scare away physicians from accepting Medicare patients because of the complexities of the new payment tracks.