HHS backs off on plan to regulate health IT network
HHS, through its Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, has decided to punt on its previous drive to regulate the proposed nationwide health information network. In May, the ONC published a formal request for information—chiefly a list of more than 60 questions—that gave a sense of government regulators’ thoughts on how the national network might be regulated. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress tasked the ONC with establishing a “governance mechanism for the nationwide health information network.” But even that initial request for information received pushback from multiple organizations in more than 140 formal comments the ONC received. Dr. Farzad Mostashari, director of the ONC, said at a meeting of the federally chartered Health IT Policy Committee, “One concern that we heard across almost every response was that regulation at this time may actually slow the development of trusted exchange, if it is implemented prematurely. Our goal is to increase information exchange, not to hobble it or hinder it in any way, and it was something that we have to listen to carefully.” Mostashari told policy committee members, however, that the decision to pause doesn’t mean the ONC will never move to regulate the network.