I wish I knew more

I’ve been getting a lot of traffic on this blog today, and at least a few of the searches that brought people here had to do with Dr. David Brailer’s resignation and speculation about who might replace him.

As far as I know, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has not said anything publicly, though Brailer will hold a media conference call on Monday. HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt did put out a short statement yesterday:

It is with regret that I have accepted Dr. Brailer’s resignation as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. 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.

While I will miss him here at HHS, I am pleased that David has agreed to serve as Vice-Chair of the American Health Information Community (The Community), which is charged with making recommendations to the Secretary of HHS to facilitate the development and adoption of standards-based health IT. David has helped the Community identify promising breakthroughs for near-term progress while continuing to move us closer to longer-term health IT goals. David will also continue to serve as a consultant to HHS to help lead the President’s health care transparency initiative.

Until a replacement for David’s position is announced, the work of the Office of the National Coordinator will continue under the leadership of the four permanent directors of the office.

There was nothing from the White House, either.

According to the story in the Financial Times today, Brailer is leaving because of family concerns. It’s well known that he has been flying back and forth to Washington from his home in San Francisco pretty much every weekend on his own dime, and that does not include all the travel that his job has required.

Brailer did say at the World Health Care Congress on Tuesday that he wouldn’t be around when President Bush’s 10-year deadline for bringing electronic health records to “most Americans” comes in 2014, but I’d hardly call that a hint that he would announce his resignation two days later. Rumors of him leaving because of the overwhelming workload have been around for at least a year, and nobody’s really taken them seriously.

I don’t have any insight just yet as to who his replacement might be, but suffice it to say that it will be someone with a firm grasp on IT, patient safety and healthcare finance, and who hews to the Bush administration’s preference for private-sector leadership and funding over a government-financed effort. The latter part rules out a lot of people.

I was remarking at the WHCC this week that despite the fact that the conference organizers trotted out a whole bunch of administration officials even as Bush’s popularity numbers plummet, the healthcare team the White House has put together has some pretty good credentials. You don’t see the army of political hacks that has pervaded other parts of the executive branch. Let’s hope it stays that way.

If anyone has any clues or suggestions about who might replace Brailer, I’d love to hear them.

And now back to the two other stories I am supposed to finish by the end of today….