Veteran medical informaticist David Brailer, M.D., was named today to a position created last week by President Bush to coordinate the nation's healthcare information technology efforts.
On a second healthcare IT front, Health Level 7, a national standards development organization, unveiled its reconciled draft of an HHS-requested standard for electronic health records.
At a hastily organized summit of prominent healthcare representatives in Washington, HHS Secretary Thompson announced Brailer's appointment as national health information technology coordinator. Brailer, a senior fellow at Health Technology Center in San Francisco, served 10 years as chairman and chief executive officer of Care Science, a company that developed software to detect clinical problems in hospital settings and help solve them.
Brailer also was instrumental in developing and overseeing a regional health information coordination project in Santa Barbara County, Calif.
Meanwhile, HL 7 announced today overwhelming industry approval of a "functional model" for defining the scope of what providers and vendors should consider to be the essential functions of an electronic health record.
The draft standard will be put to use during a two-year trial period before becoming an officially accredited standard.
It will serve as a common source of information for IT leaders within hospitals, physician practices, nursing homes and community-based care organizations as they discuss the design of their clinical information systems, and it will help those leaders present their needs clearly to vendors, according to Wes Rishel, past board chairman of HL7 and a research director with Gartner, a research firm in Stamford, Conn.
Don Mon, vice president of practice leadership for the Chicago-based American Health Information Management Association, the 46,000-member organization of health information professionals, was a member of the HL7 special interest group working on the EHR standard.
With passage of a final ballot on the EHR draft standard several weeks ago, and the final reconciliation this week of comments made during the balloting, the special interest group now matures into the Electronic Health Record Technical Committee under HL7 work rules.
The committee will oversee further refinement of the draft into full standard status over the next two years.
Mon said no electronic medical records system on the market today has all of the 130 functions in the HL7 draft standard because the committee included several "visionary" functions that have been discussed for years within the healthcare IT community but never wired into a system.
Those include real-time reporting to public health agencies and high-level, immediate alerts at the point of care that go beyond today's drug interaction alerts and would include more complex applications such as triggered summaries of evidence-based medicine, Mon said.
"Those functions are simply unavailable in an EMR today," he said.
HHS has expressed keen interest in defining the functions of an electronic record to support its efforts to promote the technology in healthcare and begin to devise incentives for using IT to improve patient care and medical efficiency.
In July, Thompson asked the Institute of Medicine to develop an EHR standard, and the IOM, in turn, asked HL7, an American National Standards Institute-accredited standards-development organization, to take on the task. At the time, HL7 had had a special interest group working on an EHR since 2001.
Joseph Conn contributed to this story.