Late news, literally: A new national HIT coordinator

Karen DeSalvo, M.D.


I’m a little late to the party reporting on the naming of a new national health IT coordinator, Karen DeSalvo, M.D. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced DeSalvo’s appointment on Dec. 19, two days after I boarded a plane out of the country for a much-needed vacation. I vowed not to respond to any work-related e-mail while away, and I stayed true to my word, so now I play catch-up.

I honestly know nothing of DeSalvo’s work as health commissioner of the City of New Orleans and senior health policy advisor to Mayor Mitchell Landrieu, even though I visited New Orleans twice in the early rebuilding stages after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 and 2007 to report on the state of the healthcare infrastructure. At the time, Ray Nagin was mayor, though Landrieu was Louisiana lieutenant gove

rnor and his sister, Mary, was and still is a U.S. senator representing the Pelican State.

During my visits, I met with several state and local healthcare officials, but never came across DeSalvo. She is the first national coordinator I did not know prior to taking over ONC, so I guess I’ll be doing some catch-up. From her biography, I see her background is in public health, much like her predecessor, Farzad Mostashari, M.D. That signals to me that there will be a continued strong focus on using IT to improve population health, one of the original 2004 goals of the first national coordinator, David Brailer, M.D.

While Stage 1 of Meaningful Use has been about installing EHRs, we should start to see connectivity and interoperability to help manage populations in Stage 2, which is just getting started, with an eye toward producing measurable outcomes in Stage 3, which probably won’t begin before 2017.

DeSalvo remains in New Orleans at the moment. She takes over at ONC Jan. 13. Acting national coordinator Jacob Reider, M.D., will go back to being ONC’s chief medical officer.