Digital health hires and exits: ONC leadership change, Apple expands health engineering team, and more

By Heather Mack

Dr. Karen DeSalvo, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, has resigned from her post and will now shift her attention to her duties as the Department of Health and Human Services’ acting assistant secretary for health. Dr. Vindell Washington, ONC principal deputy national coordinator, will be her successor. DeSalvo wrote on twitter she was “Thrilled to make the hand off to” Washington.

Healthcare IT News reported HHS Sylvia Burwell wrote in an email to ONC staff that DeSalvo was instrumental in advancing interoperability across the health system, helping ONC to update the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan and develop a Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap. Burwell also said Washington will continue to lead the administration’s efforts to “leverage health information technology to reform how we pay for and deliver care; transform health research and innovation to empower clinicians, individuals and communities to manage their health; and oversee implementation of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan and the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap to unlock digital health data and ensure it is widely accessible, usable and transferable throughout the public and private sectors.”

Apple has hired Evan Doll, who is rejoining the Apple team after he left to cofound the news app Flipboard, to further its reach into global healthcare. Doll, who previously worked at Apple as an engineer and contributed to some of the company’s earliest apps such as email, calendar and clock, will now be the director of health software and engineering.

Happify, which makes an employee wellness and mental health support platform, announced announced advisor and board member Dr. Andrew Sekel has expanded his role and is now chairman. Formerly CEO of OptumHealth Specialty Networks, Sekel will help guide the company’s enterprise efforts. At OptumHealth, Sekel led the company’s behavioral health services, including comprehensive management of mental health care, integrated employee assistance, work-life and workforce solutions to improve employees’ mental health and productivity.

“Dr. Sekel’s expertise working in behavioral health within the healthcare industry will be invaluable for Happify Health and we’re honored to have him as chairman. Dr. Sekel knows the challenges of cost and access providers face in addressing mental and emotional health,” Happify CEO Tomer Ben-Kiki said in a statement. “With his knowledge of the industry, we can scale Happify Health’s cost-effective, easily accessible and positive outcome interventions for the enterprise market.”

Population health platform company Virtual Health has hired Sue Powers as senior vice president of sales. The company offers EHR aggregation, behavioral health management, telehealth, care team collaboration and patient engagement tools and has recently expanded, with backing from Edison Partners. Powers, who joins the team after two decades in sales in health care operations including Array Health and Edifecs, will be responsible for promoting the development of and mentoring the sales team. 

Another population health management company, Lumeris, has hired Dr. Lance Coleman as medical director. Coleman, who previously worked at Blue Cross of Idaho where he worked as senior medical director, will be responsible for providing payers and providers with tools to deliver value-based care from Lumeris’ repertoire, which includes Medicare Advantage Health Plans.