Leavitt Formally Announces Health Care Information Technology Advisory Panel, Initiatives
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Monday at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in New York formally announced that he will appoint a 17-member advisory panel made up of members from public and private entities to guide the development of national electronic health records systems, CQ HealthBeat reports. The panel will recommend ways to make health records digital and interoperable among physicians, hospitals and other health care providers in a secure manner. Leavitt will chair the panel (CQ HealthBeat, 6/6).
The panel, called the American Health Information Community, will be formed in July and will provide a way for the government to work with the technology industry, health care providers and consumer groups. The panel will hold public meetings and assist in identifying public and private health IT projects that could be completed relatively quickly, both within and outside of government.
HHS also will solicit nongovernmental entities to craft additional standards. The department will issue four requests for proposals to begin the contracting process. One request asks for a process to create uniform data standards and is scheduled to be awarded by Sept. 30. A second request, also to be awarded by Sept. 30, solicits the creation of a certification-and-inspection process for electronic health records. According to officials, the certification will be crucial in helping hospitals, doctors and insurers to assess software that comes on the market.
The third request will award up to six contracts to groups that will develop and test models of how to share health information across different markets. The models will function on the Internet but permit patient data to be transmitted securely. The government will own the rights to the models and have the option of reproducing them. The final request will solicit an evaluation of state laws associated with privacy and security of health information (California Healthline, 6/6).
David Brailer, national health information technology coordinator, noted that dozens of regional or state health care networks are under development and the federal government wants to help ensure that they will not be incompatible with one another (Schmit, USA Today, 6/7). Brailer said he expects companies to make joint bids on the contracts since the federal funding is only intended as seed money (Lohr, New York Times, 6/7).
Funding for three of the requests will come from a fiscal year 2005 reprogramming budget of $86.5 million. Of that, $50 million has been earmarked for regional health care (Belopotosky, Technology Daily, 6/7). Brailer on Monday said he will provide more details on the requests once they are published Tuesday in the Federal Register. He added that the goal is to establish the first round of standards for interoperability within a year (CQ HealthBeat 6/6).
"The use of electronic health records and other information technology will transform our health care system by reducing medical errors, minimizing paperwork hassles, lowering costs and improving quality of care," Leavitt said. He added, "The goal is to have the medical clipboard become a thing of the past" (Girion, Los Angeles Times, 6/7). Brailer said, "This is health by procurement instead of by regulation" (New York Times, 6/7).
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) on Monday said they soon will propose legislation that would "encourage creation of an interoperable health IT architecture that fundamentally improves the quality of health care, reduces costs and reduces barriers to the adoption of interoperable health IT across all health care settings," adding that they hope to pass legislation this year (CQ HealthBeat, 6/6).
Officials said attracting more physician offices to the health IT system will be addressed at a later time and could possibly include financial incentives (California Healthline, 6/6).