A few months ago, I wrote about how impressed I was with the speech given by the then CTO of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Todd Park, at the New York eHealth Collaborative Digital Conference in New York City. At the time, I wrote that Park was clearly the right man to help lead the health information movement forward at HHS. His vision for entrepreneurship in health information was expressed in a way that I had never heard before.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was moved by Park’s enthusiasm, clarity and ability to affect the masses through the various speeches he gave, specifically resonating with audiences on how there has never been a better time to sit at the crossroads of health and IT. This week, as most of you who read HCI online regularly know, Park was named by President Barack Obama as the new U.S. CTO, taking over for Aneesh Chopra, who left for the private sector and a reported run at lieutenant governor in Virginia.
I’m delighted, and not really surprised, that Park has been given this opportunity to take his vision to a broader level. Park has a similar background to his predecessor Chopra, having led the development and implementation of information technology in healthcare systems. Before his run at HHS, Park had founded EHR and practice management integrator vendor athenahealth with Jonathan Bush. He also served as an advisor to Ashoka, a social entrepreneur space, where he developed a venture to bring telehealth to India.
Park may have saved his best work, however, for the public sector. His “Information Liberacion” initiative, where HHS and other government agencies have freed up countless amounts of health information data to better service the clinicians and patients, has opened up the doors for lots of innovation in healthcare. He’s even spurred this by starting developer contests, many of which are hosted on http://www.health2challenge.org. In addition, there was the launch of HealthCare.gov, which provides the consumer public with a comprehensive inventory of public and private health insurance plans across the country.
Clearly, this administration has made improving technology in healthcare a focus (HITECH, anyone?), and Park is a good choice to continue this movement on a greater scale. It also will be interesting to see how he does in this new role, where he’ll have to focus on different agencies, not just healthcare, where he’ll likely face more bureaucratic challenges and a lot more scrutiny. He also might have a short-lived tenure if Obama fails to get re-elected in the fall, but that’s a conversation for another time.