AHIC starts work on early health IT uses

The public-private organization formed to advance health IT standards began to prioritize early uses of health IT in its first meeting today.

The American Health Information Community formed workgroups to determine the existing applications available for chronic-disease monitoring and for consumers to assemble personal health records. The group, which Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt leads, will also be briefed on electronic prescribing, for which foundation standards are about to be finalized. AHIC's next meeting will be in November.

The initial breakthrough cases are uses that can be accomplished within two years and have value for the long-term goal of an electronic medical records for all Americans. Electronic medical records promise to reduce medical errors, cut costs and improve quality, according to Leavitt.

'This is a marriage of the market power of local, state and federal governments, and the innovation power of the marketplace,' Leavitt said at the group's inaugural meeting at HHS headquarters in Washington. AHIC's 16 members represent hospitals, physicians, insurance plans, IT and general industry, and federal and state agencies. The federal government pays for more than 40 percent of U.S. health care through programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Biological and pandemic surveillance will also be a high priority of health IT, said Leavitt, who leaves tomorrow for Vietnam to assess the potential threat of the avian flu virus, which scientists have found mutates in a way similar to the 1918 flu that killed tens of millions around the world.

It often takes two to three weeks now to connect the dots on disease surveillance, Leavitt said. 'We need to improve our capacity to be able to do so in two to three hours,' he said.

Personal health records give consumers, who would own the record, and those to whom they grant access, information about prescriptions, lab and test result, and allergies. Consumers can assemble their own records from their various health providers, or get that service from a provider. AHIC also discussed a health record locator that would provide an index of where medical data resides, and an electronic clipboard that would house a consumer's registration information in an updatable database, making it no longer necessary to fill out medical forms multiple times.

Yesterday, David Brailer, HHS' national coordinator for health IT, announced contract awards to develop a process for standards harmonization, health IT product compliance certification and assessments of the variations in state privacy laws.

Brailer announced an interim management team until a permanent team is named. The members are:
  • Robert Wah, acting deputy national coordinator

  • Karen Bell, acting director, Office of Health IT Adoption

  • John Loonsk, acting director, Office of Interoperability and Standards

  • Dana Haza, acting director, Office of Programs and Coordination, and

  • Jodi Daniel, acting director, Office of Policy and Research.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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