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ONC: DeSalvo Will Maintain Leadership at Agency, Focus on Ebola

October 29, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Despite stepping away from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to be part of the Ebola response team, Karen DeSalvo, M.D. will maintain her leadership at the agency, according to an ONC blog post on Tuesday afternoon.

Last week, ONC announced that DeSalvo would step down as National Coordinator for Health IT and serve as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Health as part of the Ebola response team—as per the request of Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Lisa Lewis, the chief operating officer at ONC, would serve as Acting National Coordinator for Health IT.  

However, there remained some ambiguity regarding DeSalvo’s continued role with ONC. A source at ONC told HCI that the acting positions are not usually permanent, so there is a chance that she will eventually return. She is still expected to still work with ONC in her new role but will spend the majority of her time on other duties.

In the Oct. 28 blog post, federal health officials wrote, “Dr. DeSalvo will serve as Acting ASH while maintaining her leadership of ONC.  Importantly, she will continue to work on high level policy issues at ONC, and ONC will follow the policy direction that she has set.  She will remain the chair of the Health IT Policy Committee; she will continue to lead on the development and finalization of the Interoperability Roadmap; and she will remain involved in meaningful use policymaking.  She will also continue to co-chair the HHS cross-departmental work on delivery system reform. “

The post also said that Lewis will provide day to day leadership at ONC.  “Lewis served as Acting Principal Deputy National Coordinator before Dr. DeSalvo joined ONC, so she has had experience with all parts of our work. She will lead our extremely talented and very strong team during Dr. DeSalvo’s deployment to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.”

What’s more, in DeSalvo’s ONC bio, it reads, “Dr. DeSalvo also remains in her role as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, where she continues to set high level policy and the strategic direction of the office, including efforts related to interoperability.”

Following the blog post, the American Medical Association (AMA) released a statement expressing pleasure that DeSalvo will remain involved with ONC. “We look forward to continuing to work with her to fix the meaningful use program and achieve an interoperable technology infrastructure. The AMA hopes Dr. DeSalvo’s continued presence will further advance efforts to improve the regulatory framework for health information technology and patient care.”

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