Robert Kolodner's appointment to head the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology was expected and welcomed by the health IT community, said Scott Wallace, president and chief executive officer of the Chicago-based National Alliance for Health Information Technology.
"I don't think anyone was terribly surprised," Wallace said. "Dr. Kolodner is a very good consensus builder who goes out of his way to understand a wide variety of perspectives."
Kolodner has been serving as interim national coordinator since Sept. 20, 2006, after the first person to hold that office, David Brailer, announced his resignation on April 20 of last year.
Wallace added that the "interim" in front of Kolodner's title has hindered his office to some extent, and now that hindrance has been removed.
"I think it absolutely adds stability and I think the uncertainty has been a distraction, although the office has continued to operate at a high level," he said. "This removes a cloud and allows Dr. Kolodner to focus and get things done."
The position of deputy national coordinator remains unfilled and probably couldn't be filled until a permanent national coordinator was named, Wallace said. He added that even more stability results from the fact that this was a "career" appointment rather than a "political" appointment, and compared Kolodner's appointment to that of Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Director Carolyn Clancy.
A 58-year-old psychiatrist, Kolodner began studying computers as a hobby while attending the Yale University School of Medicine, and was the chief health informatics officer at the Veterans Health Administration before joining HHS. He started at the Veterans Administration in 1977, and oversaw the development of the VHA's VistA electronic medical-record system. In 1996, Kolodner was appointed associate chief information officer for enterprise strategy in the newly created Office of Information in the Veterans Health Administration.
In 2005, readers of Modern Physician voted Kolodner the 41st most powerful physician-executive in healthcare.
The national coordinator serves as the main adviser to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on all health IT initiatives. President Bush created the office via an April 24, 2004, executive order as part of his effort to wire most U.S. hospitals and medical offices by 2014.