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After sudden departure, CMS says it's 'committed' to CHIO role

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it is committed to the role of federal chief health informatics officer, despite the sudden departure of its first appointment.

Mark Roche, M.D., left the role as CHIO after less than four months on the job, according to news reports.

Roche, who has plenty of EHR and interoperability experience in the public and private sectors, was appointed to the CHIO role in March, almost a year after CMS announced the creation of the position. It’s unclear why he departed so suddenly, but it comes at a time when CMS and ONC are sorting through more than 2,000 comments on interoperability and information blocking rules it proposed in February.

Johnathan Monroe, director of the office of communications for CMS, said the agency remains “committed to this new role” and is currently looking at how to move forward. Monroe wouldn’t comment on Roche’s departure, saying it was against the organization’s personnel policy to do so.

CMS created the CHIO position last year as a way to change the “way-we-have-always-done-it” manner and bring a health IT expert to the helm, according to a blog post that introduced the new role to the health IT community and was written by CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

Verma said the aim for the CHIO role is to tackle data, develop an application programming interface (API) strategy enabling the agency to share data securely, and lead the agency’s interoperability strategy, according to the blog post.

Indeed, one of the main focal points of the interoperability rule proposed by CMS earlier this year centers on requiring healthcare organizations to implement and use APIs for easier data sharing.

“We anticipate the CHIO role will help drive forward the many health IT initiatives we have begun,” Verma wrote in the blog. She cited the Medicare Blue Button 2.0 program, which she described as “a universal digital format for personal health information,” and an “overhaul of the CMS EHR Incentive Programs to focus on interoperability,” as two examples.

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