By now, most people who work in health IT are familiar with the work of Dr. Karen DeSalvo, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Many sources have discussed the recent news that President Barack Obama has nominated DeSalvo to the assistant secretary position at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2014, DeSalvo served as the acting HHS assistant secretary during the height of the West African Ebola epidemic, and has since been splitting her time between the two roles.

DeSalvo now awaits confirmation from the Senate, and if she does indeed take on the post, the critical role of the ONC head will be left open. The state of health IT is in a period of advanced EHR adoption and interoperability and leadership from the ONC is definitely needed. Many health IT experts are beginning to wonder what this will look like with DeSalvo’s possible departure.

Looking to the future of health IT

HealthIT Analytics recently tackled this subject in an article, asking whether the potential departure would “cause a significant disruption” in the progress that has already been made in healthcare data analytics. One of the more recent – and important – priorities that DeSalvo has championed is interoperability. In fact, she was very instrumental in getting the ONC to compile its Interoperability Roadmap. In a recent Health Affairs blog written by DeSalvo, she explained the ONC’s goals for getting to interoperability, including API and implementation standards, the increasingly important need for data security and privacy and incentivizing these platforms for providers.

However, it isn’t just the push for interoperability that has certain health IT experts concerned. According to the Information Security Media Group, the timing of this announcement is less than ideal, especially since the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is currently in the midst of outlining several major transitions. More recently, the CMS released two sets of proposed rules for stage 3 meaningful use. This, combined with the initiatives in the Interoperability Roadmap, leaves a lot of questions unanswered as hurdles toward both of these goals remain. With so much progress made toward a U.S. system that embraces health information exchange under DeSalvo’s tenure, taking a step back would indeed be disappointing.

With Obama’s recent announcement, it is still unclear what the future of the ONC holds if DeSalvo’s confirmation follows through. However, based on recent tech advancements in health IT, such as vendor neutral technology, there are signs that the future is still bright. A VNA is fundamental to a health care systems’ enterprise imaging strategy. The greatest advantage of such a system is that not only is it interoperable, but it can also manage, store and share clinical images and related content regardless of vendor and digital format. VNAs, like those offered by TeraMedica, can work either alone or alongside a PACS and can reliably store, manage, retrieve and query clinical images and related information.

News brought to you by TeraMedica, Inc., leaders in healthcare enterprise imaging (VNA) solutions.