Agency Leadership Update: Collins Stays at NIH, Bindman Leaves AHRQ

Jan. 20, 2017
As President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in as the United States’ 45th president at noon today, there has been an ongoing administration shuffle as agency leaders have stepped down as part of the presidential transition.

As President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in as the United States’ 45th president at noon today, there has been an ongoing administration shuffle as agency leaders have stepped down as part of the presidential transition.

AHRQ - Andy Bindman, M.D., who has served as the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) since May 2016, is leaving the agency and returning to the University of California San Francisco as a primary care physician and health services researcher. Deputy director Sharon Arnold, Ph.D., will serve as the agency’s acting director. According to AHRQ, Bindman’s tenure at AHRQ featured “an emphasis on the learning health care system, a concept that calls for the increased use of evidence to improve the quality, safety and value of heath care.”

In his final blog post, titled “Bringing Moneyball to Medicine,” Bindman wrote about transforming healthcare through health IT, highlighting how major league sports have integrated data analytics into their workflow to improve team performance and the parallel opportunity in health care. “For the most part, clinicians function like baseball ‘scouts.’ We bring a special knowledge to improving health informed by our experience. We are underperforming, however, by not making a stronger commitment to a data-driven, evidence-based approach,” Bindman wrote.

“While patients are the ultimate beneficiaries of increased use of evidence, AHRQ is focusing its efforts toward the clinical leaders of health care organizations. We believe these individuals can become the Billy Beane change agents who can support local efforts to ensure evidence becomes a routine part of everyday practice," he wrote, and further stated, "As I prepare to leave, I am not only gratified by the gains we’ve made in my short time, but also deeply optimistic about the agency’s prospects for advancing its mission. AHRQ is not a payer or a regulator, but a facilitator that uses research and evidence to support constructive improvements in health care."

As previously reported by Healthcare Informatics, AHRQ is facing proposed budget cuts. In June, the Senate Committee on Appropriations approved for Senate consideration a bipartisan spending bill that among other things, would cut AHRQ funding by $10 million to $324 million. Last year, AHRQ saw its 2015 budget of $364 million cut by about 8 percent. The research agency has long been disliked by some members of Congress who feel that the organization's work has not led to proven results. There was even a point last year when there was discussion that AHRQ would be terminated completely.

CDC – In a year-end review with Reuters posted Dec. 30th, Thomas Frieden, M.D., director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said he would hand in his resignation today, inauguration day. Frieden was appointed by President Barack Obama to run the CDC in 2009. President-elect Trump has not, as of yet, announced who he will appoint to replace Frieden. Anne Schuchat, who was chief health officer during the H1N1 pandemic and has been principal deputy director since 2015, will take over as acting director.

CMS – Patrick Conway, deputy administrator for innovation and quality at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), who leads the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), will serve as the acting administrator of the agency starting today and through the transition, which outgoing CMS acting administrator Andy Slavitt reported on Twitter yesterday. President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Seema Verma to head CMS, but the Senate Finance Committee has not yet scheduled a confirmation hearing. While Verma, current president, CEO and founder of SVC, Inc., a national health policy consulting company, may be unfamiliar to the health IT world, Healthcare Informatics’ Managing Editor Rajiv Leventhal wrote a piece detailing past insurance programs she has designed.

HHS – President-elect Trump tapped Tom Price, M.D. (R-GA) as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary. Price, 62, a retired orthopedic surgeon and an early Trump supporter, has been a leading GOP voice against Obamacare, which the President-elect has promised to “repeal and replace.” This week, as reported by Healthcare Informatics, Rep. Price faced very rigorous questioning from Democratic Senators during a courtesy confirmation hearing in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in the U.S. Senate. The Senate Finance Committee is the confirming committee, the committee that will actually vote on the Price nomination, and that hearing is scheduled for Jan. 24.

NQF – The National Quality Forum named Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., as the organization’s new president and chief executive officer. A board-certified emergency medicine physician who has worked in both academic and community settings, Agrawal is the former deputy administrator and director for the CMS' Center for Program Integrity (CPI). Agrawal will succeed Helen Darling, NQF interim president and CEO, on January 30, 2017.

NIH – Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, will remain in his post, at least temporarily, according to The Washington Post, citing an announcement from NIH. The agency said that Collins “had been held over by the Trump administration,” and did not provide any further details, according to The Washington Post article posted Thursday.

ONC - Vindell Washington, M.D. had a brief tenure as National Coordinator for Health IT as he was appointed back in August and he submitted his resignation in December, effective today. Leadership of ONC will now pass on an interim basis to Deputy National Coordinator Jon White, M.D., until the incoming Trump administration makes their appointment to fill the position. ONC chief privacy officer Lucia Savage also stepped down. Healthcare Informatics’ Leventhal wrote last week that questions have arisen in recent days about the future of ONC, the health IT arm of the federal government. “While there is strong belief in political circles that the agency won’t be dismantled or severely disrupted in any way, there is uncertainty surrounding who might take leadership positions at ONC after Trump takes over at the White House in nine days,” Leventhal wrote.

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