Karen DeSalvo has a vision for health care in the United States. It’s one in which sick patients don’t have to interrupt their drug treatments every time they switch hospitals, and in which health care providers aren’t hindered by bureaucracy and outdated file keeping. Digitizing medical records, she believes, enhances the work doctors already do.
As the national coordinator for health IT, it’s DeSalvo’s job to inch her vision closer to reality. The internal medicine specialist took office a little over a year ago — 10 years after President George W. Bush’s administration created the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and five years after the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 gave the Department of Health and Human Services authority to promote electronic health records and the exchange of digital health information.