Kolodner named interim national health IT coordinator

By Nancy zz_Ferris
01:00 AM
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The well-regarded chief health informatics officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs has moved over to become the new interim national coordinator of health information technology at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Robert Kolodner, a career employee of the Veterans Health Administration who has led the development of the VA's e-medical records (EMRs) systems, becomes the second person to lead the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONCHIT).

Dr. David Brailer, the first national coordinator, resigned in April. Dr. Karen Bell, who leads ONCHIT's Health IT Adoption Office, served as acting national coordinator after Brailer returned to California.

Brailer, who led the search for his successor, said this month it has proved difficult to find the right person for the job on a permanent basis. Legislation to establish the office has been languishing in Congress, and it is possible that a new administration might not follow the approach the Bush administration adopted.

Kolodner is serving on a detail from the VA, which could limit his tenure at HHS, a VA spokeswoman said. He began work at HHS Sept. 18.

Kolodner, a psychiatrist by training, became interested in computers in the 1980s and worked on the VA's Decentralized Hospital Computer Program, the predecessor of the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture EMR system used throughout the VA. The department describes it as "the nation's largest integrated health system."

Kolodner also has worked on the effort to establish two-way medical records sharing between the Defense Department and the VA.

HHS released a brief statement from Secretary Mike Leavitt welcoming Kolodner.