DeSalvo steps into ONC amid pressing challenges

When Karen DeSalvo, MD, began her appointment as national coordinator for health IT on Monday, she arrived at a pivotal time. More than 60 percent of eligible professionals (EPs) have received a Medicare or Medicaid EHR incentive payment.

Certainly there's no denying the government's success in prompting physicians to put EHRs in place. Some skeptics would say, however, that the meaningful use program has been front-loaded with payouts for Stage 1 implementation, while the grinding work of Stages 2 and 3 — ensuring system interoperability and instituting population health measures — lies ahead. As has been the case all along most small and mid-size medical practices will face those challenges without the benefit of dedicated IT resources.

Nonetheless, DeSalvo, a doctor with a reputation for problem-solving, has thus far received public accolades upon news of her appointment. And another came on the day she started.

"DeSalvo’s on-the-ground experience in New Orleans demonstrates her impressive ability to bring diverse stakeholders together. We are confident that she will use those skills to build support for efforts to ensure that health IT is used to achieve the triple aim of better health, better healthcare and lower costs for patients and families," Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families said in a prepared statement, calling on DeSalvo to prioritize the needs of patients and families within health IT policy.

Jacob Reider, MD, DeSalvo's immediate predecessor as national coordinator, described her as an expert in health policy, medical education and public health.

HIMSS, the parent company of Medical Practice Insider, called her appointment an "excellent selection." DeSalvo "has a deep understanding of the value of informatics, as well as of the challenges and promise of interoperability," HIMSS executive vice president Carla Smith said in a Dec. 19 press statement.

Indeed, DeSalvo’s experience will be "critical to realizing the full potential of health IT,” Ness added, “which can help reduce health disparities affecting underserved populations and ensure that every American has the opportunity to live a full, healthy life."

A nation of physicians — and patients — is standing by to put those objectives to the test. Good luck, Dr. DeSalvo.

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