Add one more outfit to the dozen or more government and private-sector organizations busily planning for the brave new age of interconnected healthcare information technology systems. The 11-member Commission on Systemic Interoperability, which met for the first time in January, was created by the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.
The commissioners, five of whom are physicians, were appointed by congressional leaders and President Bush. The purpose of the commission, led by Scott Wallace, president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Health Infor-mation Technology, is to advise Congress and the president on how to create a world in which healthcare information flows freely between patients, physicians, hospitals and other care providers.
But that mission could have the commission plowing the same field as David Brailer, M.D., head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, an arm of HHS.
That could create a sticky situation, since the commission has been directed by Congress not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations. Also, under the MMA, the commission is to report its findings, including a timeline and recommended priorities, by the end of October.
"To some extent, (the commissioners) are trying to answer the same question that Dr. Brailer asked," says Mark Leavitt, M.D., chief medical officer of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. He appeared with Brailer before the commission at its first meeting.
There are important differences between the commission and Brailer's office, however, including who they work for and their deadlines. "Dr. Brailer's office is an executive branch office, and the commission was set up by Congress," Leavitt says. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, formed in April 2004, was instructed to "not assume or rely upon additional federal resources or spending to accomplish adoption of interoperable health information technology."
"We dont have that restriction," Wallace says. "We can look at a federal role if the commissioners deem that necessary." Also, he says, the commission can hold public hearings while Brailer's office must rely on a formal request for information.