HHS names national health IT coordinator

Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson yesterday named Dr. David Brailer as National Health IT Coordinator, a new position at HHS that President Bush created last week to accelerate federal efforts to adopt health technology, such as electronic prescriptions and health records.

The president last week set a national goal of assuring that most Americans have electronic health records within 10 years (Click for GCN coverage).

Thompson also announced that the medical vocabulary known as Snowmed CT, a clinical language standard created by the College of American Pathologists for a national health information infrastructure, is available for free through the National Library of Medicine.

HHS and other agencies also will adopt 15 standards agreed to by the Consolidated Health Informatics initiative to enable electronic exchange of clinical health information across the federal government. And the Health Level 7 standards-setting organization, with HHS support, identified a model and standards for electronic health records.

'Health information technology promises huge benefits, and we need to move
quickly across many fronts to capture these benefits,' Thompson said at a summit on health IT in Washington. He asked public and private officials to 'press down on the accelerator and bring about the benefits of health IT even faster.'

HHS will use its position as the largest health care payer through Medicare to promote adoption of health IT to reduce medical error and costs. The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments are also collaborating on the use of e-health records for active-duty soldiers and military veterans.

Brailer currently is a senior fellow at the Health Technology Center in San Francisco, where he has advised various regional and national efforts on IT and health information exchange. He previously was chairman and CEO of CareScience Inc., a health care management company in Santa Barbara County, Calif. Brailer holds doctoral degrees in medicine and economics from the University of Pennsylvania. He received his M.D. from West Virginia University.

One of his first tasks will be to study options to create incentives in Medicare and other HHS programs to encourage the private sector to adopt interoperable electronic health records. A national health information network could save about $140 billion per year through improved care and reduced duplication of medical tests, Thompson said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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