Obama names first-ever CTO to oversee health IT

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Aneesh P. Chopra. Image Source: State of Virginia

President Barack Obama has named Virginia's Technology Secretary Aneesh P. Chopra to be the nation's first chief technology officer (CTO).

"Aneesh will promote technological innovation to help achieve our most urgent priorities-from creating jobs and reducing healthcare costs to keeping our nation secure," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address, according to the Washington Post.

Chopra, appointed by Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine in 2006, had been under consideration for months for a job in the Obama administration, including technology chief at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

In an interview with NextGov.com, Chopra called health IT "a labor of love" and said that he spent his career in state government working to advance IT use to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.

Chopra will help oversee the $19 billion in federal stimulus package funding aimed at encouraging EHR adoption. Chopra said the biggest opposition to the EHR initiative will come from physicians, acknowledging that adoption is the major barrier.

"My general view is the (stimulus package) will encourage physicians to move to the tipping point of saying, 'Maybe I will take the plunge.' But there is still risk the physician has to take," he added.

Senator Mark R. Warner, D-Va., appointed Chopra to several boards during his term as Virginia Governor, including the Southern Technology Council, the Board of Medical Assistance Services and the EHRs Task Force. Kaine appointed Chopra Secretary of Technology in December of 2005. Chopra also is a former managing director with the Advisory Board Company, a for-profit healthcare think tank serving nearly 2,500 hospitals and health systems, the Post reported.