Kolodner named interim HIT coordinator

Robert Kolodner, M.D., chief health informatics officer of the Veterans Health Administration, has been named interim national coordinator for health information technology.

As has been widely reported, government officials have had trouble finding a permanent replacement for David Brailer, M.D., who stepped down in May, but has been leading the search for his successor. The head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology must pass a background check, support the Bush administration’s preference for heavy involvement by the private sector and be able to withstand the rough-and-tumble world of Washington politics. Brailer has said that the latter reality caught him off guard.

Also, it may be a short-term job. As a presidential appointee, the next national coordinator likely will be replaced in January 2009, when the current presidential term ends. That’s less than 2 1/2 years from now.

All I know about the appointment is what is contained in the HHS press release. I have, however, interviewed Kolodner before, and he certainly seems qualified.

I’ll be in Washington next week for the Third Health Information Technology Summit. I suspect there will be plenty to talk about there.

In other news, Brigham and Women’s Hospital surgeon Atul Gawande, M.D., has received a 2006 MacArthur Fellowship, better known as a “genius grant.” Gawande, author of the 2002 best-seller, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, gets $500,000 to use as he wishes for the next five years. He’s been a strong voice in patient safety in recent years.

He has not yet said publicly what he will do with the money.