On only her second day on the job, Karen DeSalvo, M.D., the new national coordinator for health IT, led off the first Health IT Policy Committee meeting of 2014 by introducing herself and explaining a little about why she was interested in leading the nation’s health IT efforts.
First, DeSalvo gave the Policy Committee a brief description of her background, some of which Healthcare Informatics reported on earlier. She talked about her work as New Orleans’ health commissioner, and how the use of health IT became increasingly important in public health initiatives and to improve emergency preparedness. She ensured health IT was a foundational element of the health system's redesign in the wake of redevelopment after Hurricane Katrina, and she was on the Steering Committee for the Crescent City Beacon Community.
In addition, DeSalvo said overseeing construction of the city’s newest public hospital included evaluating and purchasing a health IT system. “That was a rich experience as the project executive to have to think about the purchasing decisions,” she said.
She noted that she left a job she loved as health commissioner for the city of New Orleans, but that she already loves her job at ONC after only two days.
“I am not a content expert like you all are,” she told the Policy Committee. "That’s no secret, and it is something the secretary [Kathleen Sebelius] and I have had conversations about." She called it remarkable that Sebelius “recognized that ONC is much more than an area of content expertise, that there is great promise for health information technology to be in the leading mix of delivery reform for the country.”
DeSalvo said she is eager to be involved in the next chapter of President Obama’s major domestic policy initiative — to see that the promise of health information technology in the clinical interface, for the health systems, and for populations and the community at large comes to fruition, “and that we able not only to make healthcare more effective but more valuable, and that we actually begin to see real improvements in health over time.”
She said health IT can also allow providers to do much more for people in the event of a disaster by enabling preparedness. “So that is why I said yes,” she explained. “I am inspired and excited by the work that is happening. I am looking forward to being part of healthcare reform around delivery and seeing all the ways that we can apply technology to make peoples’ lives better.”