Susannah Fox is the new CTO of HHS

I am not actually sure that anybody reads this blog. I suppose they must, that is really the magic of RSS… letting you know when your friends blog… right??

Still. If you wanted to actually follow what I am doing you should probably be reading the DocGraph Blog, or the CareSet Blog, or the OpenSourceHealth News Page. I just don’t tend this blog the way I should… But when I have news that I think deeply interesting and I cannot find a category for it anywhere, this is the perfect place.

Discovering that my dear friend Susannah Fox is now the CTO of HHS is just that kind of category defying important news.

I cannot think of a better person for a role like this. I mean that literally. I tried. I failed.

Susannah is a geek, enough of one that she cannot easily be snowed by other technologists (I should be explicit: I am talking about government contractors), even where she does not have direct technical expertise. Not every geek I know can do that. On the other hand she is not soo much of a geek that people find her arrogant, or incomprehensible. (I have problems with both). Most of that job will not be directly geeky stuff. That sounds contradictory, but HHS is just too large to have any one technical strategy. There is no way that a reasonable technical vision for the FDA would apply at CMS or at NLM. Being the CTO at HHS is about seeing the connections, understanding how things fit together, and then having a vision that is not actually technology centric, but patient centric.

As technology savvy as Susannah is, it is her capacity to hold a huge vision, and keeping patients at the center of that vision, that make her so deeply qualified for this job. No body asked me who the next CTO of the government was going to be, and frankly I was a little worried about who would be next. Bryan Sivak and Todd Park (her predecessors in this role) leave pretty damn big shoes to fill. Someone in the whitehouse/HHS is casting a net wide enough to know who the really transformational thinkers in our industry are.

I have to admit, I am still reeling from this news. I am usually pretty good at figuring out what the implications of something are… at calculating where the hockey puck is going… But I really have no idea what is the implications of this are going to be… other than to say:

This is going to matter, in precisely the way that most things in healthcare reform don’t.