Dr. Karen DeSalvo became HHS' fifth national coordinator for health information technology in January. She previously served as city health commissioner in New Orleans. DeSalvo, a former professor of medicine and vice dean of community affairs and health policy for Tulane University, led the effort to establish a network of primary-care medical homes as part of the city's post-Katrina rebuilding process. She also served as president of the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum. A native of Austin, Texas, DeSalvo received her medical degree from Tulane and a master's degree in clinical epidemiology from Harvard. Modern Healthcare reporter Darius Tahir recently spoke with DeSalvo about progress toward meaningful use of electronic health records, the push for EHR interoperability and the proposed Health IT Safety Center. This is an edited transcript.
Modern Healthcare: What do you think of the latest figures on how many hospitals and physicians have attested for meaningful use of electronic health records?
DeSalvo: I think that it's too early to tell. We know from past experience with meaningful-use Stage 1 that people wait to attest until the 11th hour. I know there's work happening all across the country to meet attestation. It seems on track with where we expect it to be. We're listening to folks to understand how we can help share best practices and make sure that there are not any barriers that we can try to help move out of the way.
MH: Do you have any other plans to advance meaningful use?
DeSalvo: When it appeared that providers, through no fault of their own, wouldn't be able to upgrade to a 2014 product and meet the deadline set for Stage 2, we made certain people were aware there was a hardship exemption and clarified some of the qualifications around that. We didn't want people to be penalized because a product wasn't available. We're also working on finalizing a rule allowing providers to attest using the 2011 product.