Drug safety reporting system might be national health IT project

HHS secretary Mike Leavitt said a prescription drug adverse-event reporting system could be one of the first projects that a federal advisory group might take on as part of an initiative to build a national health information exchange.

Industry and government already have made progress in standards for prescription drug systems. Electronic lab results and bioterrorism surveillance information are two other possibilities Leavitt mentioned that the American Health Information Community might initially handle.

AHIC, a public-private collaboration Leavitt announced this week, will provide a way for the health care industry and government to agree on standards for electronic health records and to achieve interoperability so health data can be exchanged and accessed anytime and anywhere. Leavitt will lead the advisory panel, while David Brailer, the national health IT coordinator, will administer the panel.

'We want to see some near-term deliverables that could have the most success,' Leavitt said Tuesday at an industry conference of the National Alliance for Health IT in Washington. Success will contribute confidence in the process.

HHS is using its influence as the payer of one-third of all health care bills to create the standards collaboration and to be an early adopter of health IT, such as in its Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Leavitt is looking at the Internet for an organizational model to govern the national health information exchange, which would be composed of many regional and state networks. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is a worldwide nonprofit organization founded in 1998 and run by an independent board to manage the domain name system for the Internet. The group uses communication and consensus to make decisions and brings together disparate stakeholders with common needs to build standards.

Leavitt also is studying the Java community's Fedora Foundation, which Red Hat Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., is setting up as a nonprofit with an independent board to continue to offer free and unsupported Fedora Linux software separate from the company.

'Those are outside government, self-sustaining business models [that are] open, transparent and have a democratic governance process. We have to find a way for these processes to be sustainable over time,' Leavitt said.

HHS has released four requests for proposals to develop processes for setting data standards, certification and architecture for an Internet-based nationwide health information exchange, as well as assess state privacy and security policies.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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