HHS seeks members to drive health IT group

The Health and Human Services Department today called for nominations for the public-private organization that will help develop standards and drive interoperability for the exchange of health data.

Describing the U.S. health care system as 'saturated with inefficiency,' HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced last month plans to form the American Health Information Community, one of the first steps toward creating a national health information network. The collaboration will provide a forum for public and private interests to recommend specific actions that will accelerate the widespread application and adoption of electronic health records, e-prescribing and other health IT initiatives.

'Until we adopt modern information technology practices, we will not have cost-effective medical care in this country, and we will have far too many medical errors,' he said in a statement. Leavitt has said that adoption of health IT would reduce the number of medical errors, such as by replacing illegible paper prescriptions with e-prescribing. Up to 100,000 people die annually from medical mistakes, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine, a component of the National Academies of Science.

The organization will have up to 17 voting members including Leavitt, who will be the chairman and appoint the members. They will include officials from HHS, its agencies, such other federal units as the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, state government and the private sector. Private-sector members will come from health care providers, IT vendors, insurance companies, and consumer and privacy groups. HHS has said it expects the organization to convene its first meeting in September.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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