Pick up the pace
Panel pushes feds to speed up EHR conversion
Apresidential advisory panel on science and technology called on federal officials leading the healthcare industry’s conversion to electronic health-record systems to quicken the pace. The panel also urged the government to play an even more prominent role in ensuring those systems use a common computer language for information sharing and enforcement of patient-selected privacy controls.
President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology unveiled its 108-page report Realizing the Full Potential of Health Information Technology to Improve Healthcare for Americans: the Path Forward at a Washington news conference last week.
The panel recommended the federal government select a digital common language similar to the structure commonly used on the Internet, and then use federal influence to encourage its uniform adoption and use by healthcare providers moving patient data between themselves and the research and public health communities. The recommendation comes as the Institute of Medicine urges the government to improve its use of such data.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and David Blumenthal, the head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, as well as several PCAST members were on hand Dec. 8 to trumpet the report, but it is on Blumenthal’s shoulders that the greatest weight of the PCAST’s recommendations will rest.
Since the passage in 2009 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the ONC has been bustling to implement many of the programs created in the health IT section of the law known as the HITECH Act. Blumenthal recognized he had been given an added challenge from PCAST, likening it to that of a mountain climber who thinks he’s reached the summit, only to realize there still are other peaks above. “We’ve been working very hard to implement the HITECH agenda laid out for us,” he said at the news conference. “We thought we were doing a pretty good job.”
“The PCAST folks, though, have landed on the next peak and said to us, in effect, ‘Congratulations on what you have done, but there is a whole lot more still to do. We wish it came with a helicopter,” Blumenthal said.
In a telephone interview,
Blumenthal, shown at left at
the news conference, says
meeting the goals laid out by the report will be