Healthcare Business News

Todd Park stepping down as U.S. chief technology officer, returning to Silicon Valley

By Darius Tahir
Posted: August 22, 2014 - 7:45 pm ET

Todd Park, well-known in healthcare IT circles as a founder of Athenahealth and Castlight Health, is leaving his post as White House chief technology officer by year-end but won't be done with government, Fortune has reported.

He'll be moving back to the West Coast, leading an effort to help recruit new tech talent to the government.

Before government, Park was a successful tech entrepreneur. As of Friday, the combined market capitalization of the Athenahealth and Castlight totaled approximately $6 billion.

Park moved to government in August 2009, becoming chief technology officer at HHS. There, he championed open data for consumers and government. At this year's Health Datapalooza conference, he identified (PDF) the “blue button” initiative, which allows patients to download their health data, and the increasing openness of government datasets, as key megatrends shaping the future of healthcare.

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Park moved to his current post in 2012, assuming a lead role in the fixes made to after its troubled launch. Finding someone of his stature to take the chief technology role could be difficult, said one observer.

“Todd was bringing his private-sector experience to bear on a host of issues. With the exception of Andy Slavitt, I can't think of anyone else similar” in the federal government, said Health IT Now's Executive Director Joel White. “(Park)'s type of skill set,” in terms of his executive ability, “I think that's going to be hard to replace,” White said. Health IT Now, based in Alexandria, Va., is a trade group advocating for improved health IT policies.

Park's deputy, lawyer Nicole Wong, also reportedly left the White House last week. Wong focused on privacy and big-data issues; an official with the ACLU said, at the time, that Wong was “fantastic” but called for an actual tech expert to replace her.

Perhaps Park will recruit her successor. Multiple reports say he will be shifting to the West Coast and helping to recruit coders and other tech talent to the federal government. That may be a crucial role, as some feel that the government could be doing better. A December 2013 report commissioned by the Ford and MacArthur foundations titled “A Future of Failure?” (PDF) argued that the government did not employ enough technologists, and did not properly use the ones it did.

“It's increasingly clear to leaders in many industries, including government, that there's tremendous value in the way Silicon Valley conceptualizes and solves problems,” said David Shaywitz, chief medical officer at DNAnexus, a Mountain View, Calif., tech firm that provides tools to analyze DNA sequence data. “Fully realizing the potential will require the folks who have grown up in this ecosystem and inhabit its mindset. These are the people Park is presumably intending to recruit—and it sounds like a great idea.”

Follow Darius Tahir on Twitter: @dariustahir

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