Pick up the pace

Panel pushes feds to speed up EHR con­ver­sion

Modern Healthcare - - The Week In Healthcare - Joseph Conn

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

a chal­lenge.

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