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Karen DeSalvo to join Google as chief health officer

Former National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, MD, will be joining Google’s healthcare division as the tech giant continues to ramp up its presence in the market.

DeSalvo will be starting at the tech giant later this year, according to a Google spokeswoman. She will be serving as chief health officer—a new role—at Google Health, a division that earlier this year was placed under the leadership of David Feinberg, MD, the former Geisinger president and CEO.

Google has been actively recruiting prominent healthcare leaders such as DeSalvo and Feinberg. Late last month, it was announced that former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, will be serving as head of medical strategy and policy across the company's Google Health and Verily enterprises, beginning next month.

Last year, former Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove, MD, became an executive adviser to the Google Cloud healthcare and life sciences team.

The vendor is targeting the healthcare industry through various segments of the company, including Google Cloud; Google Brain Team, an AI research organization; and Verily Life Sciences, which uses technology to improve healthcare outcomes.

DeSalvo, professor of medicine at The University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School, brings to Google a wealth of experience. As head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT under the Obama administration, she worked to advance HIT interoperability by developing a Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap seeking to unlock health data through application programming interfaces.

Last year at HIMSS, Google announced a new cloud-based application programming interface aimed at addressing the interoperability challenges that continue to hamper the healthcare industry. Google’s Cloud Healthcare API is meant to extract data from electronic health records and “other proprietary data” by using standard protocols.

A strong area of focus for DeSalvo has been social determinants of health and industry efforts to integrate social care into healthcare. She was a member of the committee that wrote a report published last month by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on how to integrate patients’ social needs into healthcare delivery.

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