Obama administration's top health IT official steps down

The Obama administration's point man on health information technology, David Blumenthal, is stepping down to return to his teaching post at Harvard Medical School.

As national coordinator for health IT, Blumenthal's main task has been to come up with rules for how physicians and hospitals can qualify for the $27 billion in incentives for the adoption of electronic medical records included in the Recovery Act.

He has also spent the past two years focused on outreach and raising the visibility and importance of the transition to electronic medical records, which supporters believe will eventually reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of patient outcomes.

The healthcare IT industry has been a strong supporter of the administration's efforts to boost adoption, while critics have noted the grants do not cover the entire cost of implementing an e-health record system and could be viewed as simply a subsidy for the health IT industry.

Managing the Office of the National Coordinator has been another challenge, as the stimulus funding has swollen the office's budget and the scope of its mission by several orders of magnitude. The Department of Health and Human Services is reportedly conducting a nationwide search for Blumenthal's successor.