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Karen DeSalvo Addresses Questions from the Press at HIMSS14

February 27, 2014
by Mark Hagland
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The new National Coordinator for Health IT answers questions from the press

Karen DeSalvo, M.D., the new National Coordinator for Health IT, answered questions from about 20 journalists on the morning of Feb. 27, the last day of HIMSS14, the annual conference of the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. The impromptu press conference was convened just minutes after DeSalvo had concluded a joint appearance with Marilyn Tavenner, R.N., Administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

DeSalvo answered a variety of questions from members of the press, including around data security concerns related to health information exchange, and the viability of patient-centered medical home models in the wake of a recent journal article on a study examining PCMH challenges.

Karen DeSalvo, M.D., responding to press
questions on Thursday, Feb. 27 at HIMSS

Responding to a question from Healthcare Informatics regarding providers’ increasing concerns over the potential rigor of Stage 3 meaningful use requirements under the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act, DeSalvo said, “The general policy objective of the MU program was to offset the cost of adopting EHRs [electronic health records], amongst many other things, and to see that we could advance that as a country. In terms of our standards and policy committees,” she said, “I will share with you what’s public, which is what our workgroup has been doing a very thoughtful job of reflecting on the burden on providers, and is being thoughtful on how to balance the expectations and hopes and goals [of members of the committees], with the reality of what’s ready in the marketplace. It is important that we continue to push and that we not lose momentum,” she said, “but also important that we do it in such a way that we don’t overstretch. So it’s a fine balance.”

DeSalvo went on to say, “The workgroups have done a really fine balance of listening to providers and thinking about that. Marilyn [Tavenner] said today that she’s thinking about all the ways that they pay for care at CMS, and about ways to bring in care transformation and value-based payment. Meaningful use 3 is the next chapter but it doesn’t have to be the final chapter. Statutorially,” she said, Stage 3 is “the last chapter of that law, but more broadly, we’ll be working on this for a long time, so I’d like to see us [leverage] meaningful use” to power forward on care transformation in the provider sphere.

In response to the question of a reporter who wanted to know why she took the National Coordinator job, DeSalvo said, “I am inspired the work that’s happening in the country, and by the work that’s happening at HHS”—the Department of Health and Human Services. “There are actually a lot of bright, passionate people on the team,” she continued. “I know that their heart and mind are really in it” in the departments of HHS, DeSalvo said. “I saw it as a chance to do this kind of work not only in my own community, but on a bigger scale,” she said. “And the time is really right to think about how we apply all this HIT infrastructure to the community and to new kinds of care, because we haven’t been thinking about how we actually change care. I’m really happy with my choice, actually. I love my city [New Orleans] and loved my job” as health coordinator for that city, she concluded, “but this is a great job.”