Breaking news: New Orleans health chief Dr. Karen DeSalvo Named to Head ONC

Dr. Karen DeSalvo

Dr. Karen DeSalvo (No photo credit available – downloaded from

As we’ve said endlessly here (and in Washington), one of the key enablers of better healthcare is access to information. For that subject there’s no more important job in the world than America’s National Coordinator for Health IT, who runs ONC (Office of the National Coordinator) with our Health & Human Services department. New Orleans health chief Dr. Karen DeSalvo was just named as new head of the ONC.

ONC is a vitally important policy arm: it’s responsible for all the regulations and programs for America’s implementation of health IT. Most famously, they’re responsible for the Meaningful Use regulations that define what physicians and hospitals must do with their systems, to get the maximum Federal incentive money (and avoid penalties). On many occasions our Society has submitted policy briefs, through Policy Chair David Harlow, and on many other occasions members of our society have testified in Washington about meaningful use.

ONC also administers the Regional Extension Centers (RECs), which are providing and funding free training and information resources to help providers use their systems. The REC program is modeled after the Agricultural Extension Centers of the FDR administration, which helped farmers improve their skills, at no cost to them – a potent example of “our tax dollars at work” to build a better future.

Previous National Coordinators have included Dr. Rob Kolodner, Dr. David Blumenthal, and most recently Dr. Farzad Mostashari. This afternoon HHS announced Mostashari’s successor, Dr. Karen B. DeSalvo.

I don’t know Dr. DeSalvo so of course I turn to Twitter, where she’s @KBDeSalvo (not very active until now). Here’s a Google News search, a live search for her name and for @KBDeSalvo so you can follow what people are saying; here are a few key tweets:

Gienna Shaw ‏@Gienna
UPDATED: #ONC taps Karen DeSalvo as next National Coordinator for #HealthIT @FierceHealthIT

Alex DelVecchio ‏@HITExchange
MT @ClareWrobel Karen DeSalvo named new National Coordinator for #HealthIT. Great advocate for using HIT to improve population health!

Bechara Choucair ‏@choucair
Meet @KBDeSalvo– selected by @Governing as a 2013 Public Official of the year. Great #PublicHealth pick!  #NOLA

Health 2.0 NOLA ⚜ ‏@Health2NOLA
Those who attended our inaugural meeting will remember that @KBDeSalvo was the keynote speaker. She’ll be fabulous in her new position.

Vince Kuraitis ‏@VinceKuraitis
In old days we’d look forward to a new leaders first words. Today we’re wondering about @KBDeSalvo ‘s first Tweet. #HealthIT

As they say in New Orleans, laissez les bon temps rouler – and let’s add “Donne-moi mes données damnés!” (Google says that’s French for “Gimme my damned data,” but I’ll take corrections in the comments.)

Welcome, @KBDeSalvo!  Your predecessors have done much good, and much work lies ahead – may you have as much success as they. Our Society for Participatory Medicine stands for patients as active partners in all aspects of medicine – your consumerista @Lygeia is one of us – keep in touch!


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2 Responses to “Breaking news: New Orleans health chief Dr. Karen DeSalvo Named to Head ONC”

  1. Josh Seidman says:


    Thanks for your thoughts on this important role, and welcoming our new National Coordinator. I agree with your comments on it, but I just want to modify one important point.

    With regard to the meaningful use regulations, ONC works collaboratively with CMS in writing the MU regs (in fact, technically, CMS owns the incentives reg and ONC owns the EHR standards & certification reg). Also, importantly, ONC staffs the federal advisory committees that have ensured a fully transparent process and exceptionally broad public input into the development of the regs. So, really, the ownership of the regs is a multi-stakeholder collaborative process.

    I say all of this as someone who — long before I had an official capacity in reg writing while at ONC — worked through that process (in collaboration with many others) to ensure that MU regs included key e-patient, participatory medicine and information therapy components.


    • Bless you, Josh! In my mid-vacation hurry I knew I was getting some important fact wrong but I also knew it would get corrected by SOME sharp reader. Little did I realize it would be one of the world’s authorities. :) I’ll fix the post now.

      (For those who don’t know, this fall Josh was elected the incoming President of our society – a further indication of the tight connection between our works.)

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