DeSalvo: Interoperability ‘top priority’

February 6, 2014 in Medical Technology

Karen DeSalvo, MD, newly appointed national coordinator for health information technology, gave some insight Thursday on how the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology plans to proceed under her leadership.

Interoperability will be the “top priority for 2014,” she said at the Fourth Annual Health Care Innovation Day in Washington, DC, hosted by ONC and the West Health Institute.

{See also: DeSalvo stays the course to better care.]

America should think of healthcare as a learning system, with technology as a major support to that system, she said.

To advance America’s triple aim of improving the experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing per capita costs of healthcare, DeSalvo outlined five key goals, which ONC will be focused on over this, the second decade of its work.

They are:

  1. Increase end user adoption of health IT
  2. Establish standards so the various technologies can speak to each other
  3. Provide the right incentives for the market to drive this advancement
  4. Make sure personal health information remains private and secure
  5. Provide governance and structure for health IT

It may seem daunting, but DeSalvo, who comes from several medical leadership roles in New Orleans, knows what it’s like to face such a task. After Katrina, New Orleans was “a three-legged dog brought to its knees,” she said, borrowing a phrase used where she comes from. The city had the worst healthcare in the nation in terms of the triple aim, hence nowhere to go but up.

And so, led by DeSalvo and others, it went to work, blessed with the opportunity to build the city’s healthcare from the ground up. “We skipped over paper and when straight to interoperability,” she said.

“I would submit to you that the U.S. is not facing a Katrina, but it is in a slow boil,” she said. Solutions to the problem will come when everyone begins to think outside the box.

[See also: Health leaders react to ONC’s new chief.]

For Nick Valeriani, chief executive of West Health, it comes down to this ultimate question: “Is this care good enough for your mother?”

If the answer is “no,” — and it is  — then there is a lot of work to be done, he said.

“We believe interoperability deserves a national dialogue,” Valeriani added, “because healthcare is about the patient.”

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