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BREAKING NEWS: ONC Names Karen DeSalvo, M.D., New National Coordinator for Health IT

December 19, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Karen DeSalvo, M.D. (left) and Farzad Mostashari, M.D. at the Healthcare Informatics Innovator Awards Ceremony at HIMSS13 in New Orleans

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has confirmed Karen DeSalvo, M.D., as its next national coordinator.

DeSalvo currently serves as the City of New Orleans Health Commissioner and Senior Health Policy Advisor to Mayor Mitch Landrieu. She replaces Farzad Mostashari, M.D, who stepped down as ONC chief in October. Jacob Reider, M.D., was the acting national coordinator. DeSalvo will begin serving in her new role on Monday, January 13.

ONC tweeted, “Excited to have a new National Coordinator: Karen DeSalvo (@KBDeSalvo). Thanks to all the well wishers!”

“It has been a tremendous honor and a life-changing experience to serve our community as Health Commissioner,” Dr. DeSalvo said in a statement on the City of New Orleans' website. “Mayor Landrieu has been a true champion for health and I am grateful for his support and leadership throughout my appointment. Knowing firsthand the kind of focus this Administration has had on the public’s health, I remain optimistic that both now and in future generations, the health and lives of New Orleanians will continue to improve.”

In her work as Health Commissioner, according to an internal letter from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, DeSalvo increased the use of health IT within the city’s policy development, public health initiatives, and emergency preparedness. She ensured HIT was a foundational element of the health system's redesign, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She was on the Steering Committee for the Crescent City Beacon Community grant.

In addition, DeSalvo oversaw preparation and construction of the city’s newest public hospital, which will have a fully-integrated HIT network. She was also was president of Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum, which oversees development of health information exchange (HIE) technology within the state.

In an internal email to staff, Dr. Reider said, "I have been honored to serve as your Acting National Coordinator.  Every minute has been inspiring, educational, and energizing.   Both Lisa and I appreciate all of the support each and every one of you have given us and will give to Karen.  The work of “team ONC" is a product of every team member contributing as much as we can toward our shared goals. "

Dr. Reider said in the email he will return to his role as CMO for the ONC.

A statement from HIMSS notes, “Dr. DeSalvo’s long history of leadership in bringing the benefits of health IT to Louisiana,” and added that she has advocated for expanded use of health IT by New Orleans’ primary care providers, and ensured that the city’s newest public hospital will utilize a fully-integrated health IT network. “Dr. DeSalvo, who spoke at HIMSS13 in New Orleans earlier this year, has a deep understanding of the value of informatics, as well as of the challenges and promise of interoperability. That insight will be essential as she transitions to lead ONC’s efforts to assist U.S. clinicians and healthcare organizations as they move into Stage 2 of Meaningful Use,” it said. 

Healthcare Informatics will keep you updated on this breaking story as it develops.



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