Google hires former Obama healthcare official Karen DeSalvo as chief health officer

Karen DeSalvo's move to Google comes on the heels of the tech giant hiring former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and David Feinberg, M.D. (Monica Alleven/FierceWireless)

Karen DeSalvo, M.D., served as one of the highest healthcare and health IT policy leaders during the Obama administration, and now she is headed to tech giant Google.

The company hired DeSalvo as its first chief health officer, as first reported by CNBC

Google is expanding its roster of healthcare talent as it pushes deeper into the healthcare market. In September, Google parent company Alphabet hired former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., to lead its health strategy and policy.

A year ago, the tech giant tapped another big name in healthcare—Geisinger Health CEO David Feinberg, M.D.—to join its executive team. Feinberg moved over to the tech giant as vice president of Google Health. He has been consolidating teams across the company including its hardware division and artificial intelligence division DeepMind.

RELATED: Executive Spotlight—Karen DeSalvo on what 'frustrates' her most about healthcare—and why she gives props to the Trump administration

According to CNBC, DeSalvo will report to Feinberg and will advise Google on providers, doctors and nurses across the company’s cloud unit and Alphabet’s life sciences arm Verily, where she has been on the advisory board. 

Karen DeSalvo head shot
Karen DeSalvo, M.D. (LRVHealth)

DeSalvo has made patient-centered care and interoperability cornerstones of her career.

In an interview with FierceHealthcare in April, DeSalvo said the healthcare industry has made progress to improve data sharing, but business models need to change in order to have true interoperability.

"The reality is, when you show up in the doctor’s office, they don’t have your information. It doesn’t feel real, and that still frustrates me as a doctor, as a person, and as a policymaker. I think it goes back to business decision-making," she said.

RELATED: Google parent Alphabet hires former FDA head Robert Califf to lead health strategy and policy

The news of DeSalvo's move to Google drew a cheers on Twitter from healthcare industry leaders. Aneesh Chopra, former White House chief technology officer during the Obama administration and now president of healthcare company Care Journey, tweeted, "The movement to open up more health data just got a massive shot in the arm!"

DeSalvo has spent the past two years teaching at the University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School. This year, she also joined Boston-based venture platform LRVHealth as an executive adviser where much of her focus has expanded to investing in programs that address social determinants of health, she told FierceHealthcare.

DeSalvo served as acting assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration from 2014 to 2017. She also served as the national coordinator for health IT from 2014 to 2016, where she set national strategy and policy on health IT.