Recovering fed goes for more innovation

Robert Kolodner, MD

Robert Kolodner, MD, admits to keeping a low profile following his stint as interim National Coordinator for Health IT, a position he left in 2009 after a 31-year government career - three years at ONC, and before that 28 at the Department of Veterans Affairs. As chief informatics officer at VA, he led the development of VistA, the department's open-source electronic health record.

Low profile notwithstanding, Kolodner has been anything but idle. It's just that he prefers "to do and then talk," he says. A new collaboration between Georgia Tech and the VA on health IT innovation has Kolodner talking. The forging of partnerships like this one, which Kolodner was instrumental in achieving, is the focus of this "recovering fed's" new work in health IT.

His primary work has been as part of the team at Open Health Tools, a multinational nonprofit organization whose tagline is: "Improving the world's health and well-being by unleashing health IT innovation." It's what Kolodner is committed to help realize by forging collaborations among diverse groups.

Open Health Tools springs from the Eclipse Foundation created by IBM in 2001 "The people who started that wanted to do something in health and healthcare," Kolodner said. They started Open Health Tools using the same model, bringing together competitors and a diverse range of participants "to help make significant advances in what we hope will help contribute to and transform health IT," he added. "What you're seeing with the VA-Georgia Tech collaboration is one aspect of the many pieces that are needed to create the resources and the environment and enable that to occur."


Q. How did the Georgia Tech collaboration come about?

A. It was something that turned out in retrospect to be a natural collaboration, a natural alliance. The two organizations both had been working in ways to stimulate innovation. VHA's activity was around its Innovation Sandbox. Georgia Tech has a long history of fostering entrepreneurs and businesses. They received a grant  -  contracts from the Department of Labor and the Department of Commerce  -  in order to achieve job acceleration. The funding that Georgia Tech received had an emphasis on helping retrain and employ veterans and to foster businesses that were led by veterans. In order to do that they needed a laboratory for hands-on experience and their goal with that was to really foster innovation  -  especially disruptive innovation.

Q. What do you imagine as some of the tools that might come out of it  -  some of the innovations for disruption?