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Chopra to use CTO position to advocate for health IT

Aneesh Chopra, Federal CTO
Aneesh Chopra, Federal CTO

Aneesh Chopra, the new administration’s new Chief Technology Officer, said he will actively support Dr. David Blumenthal in his efforts to advance the adoption of health IT, one of the president’s priorities for health reform.  Prior to his senate confirmation in May, Chopra was secretary of technology for Virginia.

Aneesh Chopra said he would use his White House position to support Blumenthal, the national health IT coordinator, by concentrating on innovation, digital security and “pushing the levers of government” at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS) Government Health IT conference in Washington on June 5.  

Chopra said “I intend to be as supportive [as possible] from the White House to ensure that all the myriad moving parts of our government and, to the extent that I am engaged with the private sector and state and local government, all the resources [are brought] to bear in support of Dr. Blumenthal.”

In addition to advocating for health IT, he encouraged physicians, vendors and interested organizations to drive innovation by acting as entrepreneurs.  Typically, the government exerts influence over technology through research and development and the awards of grants and contracts, but Chopra said he would try to influence a “gray area in the middle that is a less defined,” possibly including opportunities to apply basic R&D to new strategies or prototypes.

He used voice recognition technology as an example, a technology that seemed promising 10 years ago. Although some applications are available today, more R&D and preparation for market is needed to make it a change-agent technology.  He also said he’s an avid user of the Apple iPhone and values the ability it gives him to download health care applications for just 99 cents each, and advocated for better core standards and platforms from which to build America’s health IT initiatives.  Chopra also advocated for crowd-sourcing as a viable source of ideas for the government, citing DefenseSolutions.gov, a DoD website that it uses to seek ideas to fix problems.

“This is not a procurement with 10,000 pages of requirements,” he said. “This is a simple Web portal, where the DOD asked for a half-page answer on how to address an issue. Innovation by [request for proposals] is absolutely silly.  My contribution to the discussion will be in this gray area, south of procurement and north of basic R&D,” he added. “That’s where I want to focus.” Further, health information must be provided on a “reliable, resilient, next-generation, digital infrastructure,” he said, reiterating that cybersecurity is a high priority for the administration.

He also encouraged hospitals and other organizations to get involved with community efforts to expand broadband access.   “My strong encouragement is that you would view this as a key pillar in your overall strategy to engage in this big question of health IT,” he said, adding that health care organizations should think more broadly.

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