HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced plans for development of a national health information network and creation of a federal advisory commission on standards for healthcare information technology. Leavitt said HHS on Tuesday would issue requests for proposals for :
• Architecture and design of a Web-based national health information network.
• Assessment of potential privacy and security problems in a national network and development of solutions.
• A prototype process for harmonizing standards so that different manufacturers' software programs, particularly electronic health records systems, can exchange data.
• Criteria to evaluate features and functionality of electronic health records, including interconnectivity.
Speaking this morning at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society meeting in New York, Leavitt said he would name up to 17 members to the commission, known as the American Health Information Community, and serve as its chairman. The commission's primary task will be facilitating development of interconnectivity standards for healthcare IT, Leavitt said. Its other charges include preparing a short list of projects meant to quickly demonstrate the benefits of IT in healthcare and making recommendations on architecture and design of the national network, privacy and security, and product certification. The commission, set to expire in five years, also must select a private-sector organization as its successor.
Leavitt said the commission and demonstration projects would begin in "a matter of months" and emphasized the urgency of the issue, saying, "Speed is life here." In a news release, HHS said the commission would require a minimal budget and be funded out of the agency's IT budget. -- by Joseph Conn