DeSalvo stays the course to better care
February 2, 2014 in Medical Technology
Karen DeSalvo, MD, took the helm at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on Jan. 13. Though she says she is sill “the listening phase,” it would be incorrect to say she is still getting her bearings. Whether today as ONC chief, or as a medical resident in the ‘90s, or as a practicing physician at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, or as vice dean for community affairs and health policy at Tulane University School of Medicine, or as New Orleans’ health commissioner, DeSalvo has kept a steady course on doing everything she could to help improve care.
The story has already been told several times. She grew up poor in Austin, Texas. She and her two sisters were raised by a single mother.
“I experienced healthcare through the public system, in “public clinics that were not as a consumer-friendly as we would like,” DeSalvo told the Health IT Policy Committee during her second day on the job.
It’s one of the experiences that guides her today as she takes on the ONC mantle to continue her pursuit for better care.
DeSalvo talked with Healthcare IT News Editor Bernie Monegain about the challenges ahead.
[See also: ONC chief’s early years inform her work.]
Q: What in your previous experience will inform your work at the ONC?
A: It’s my experience as a patient and as a doctor, but also in that caregiver setting that informs a great deal of my work. I always try to think about what are the end results of any kind of policy or administrative decision we might make on that special moment of encounter between the doctor or health professional and the patient. Which is complex enough and we want to make sure we’re enabling it for them.
My experience professionally has spanned from direct service through education, through administration, through public health policy work. And, I also have experience at working in and around a variety of disasters that make you think about the importance of preparedness and resilient systems, not just for disaster, but everyday. So, I guess I bring a lot to this table here as the kind of experiences I’ve had in all of those roles.
One of the common themes is always that to make good decisions for that person or population that you’re serving, you need good information that’s not just data that actually can inform your decision-making at the right time. That’s why I think there’s so much promise and power in health information technology. Done right, it’s the way the patient’s voice and the clinical decision making, the clinical findings can either help improve health or protect health, as the case may be, in public or population health, but also really begin to move us as a country to a place where making the informed and best decision and non-redundant decision is the easiest decision for everybody involved, including the patient.