The recommendations in both reports were largely ignored, according to privacy advocates and the federal watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office.
Today, however—maybe—the profile of the NCVHS as a privacy adviser and the fate of its two Leavitt-era privacy reports, could change.
Blumenthal appears to be enjoying more of a lead role in health IT policymaking under HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius than those played by his predecessor ONC leaders David Brailer and Robert Kolodner under Leavitt.
At the Wednesday news briefing, Blumenthal announced that his office would pour $80 million in federal grants into a workforce development effort. The goal is to train 10,000 health information technicians a year. Their jobs, primarily, will be to assist physicians in deploying and maintaining electronic health-record systems and help them achieve "meaningful-use" standards under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009's EHR subsidy program.
“It is estimated that we're over 50,000 workers short in this sector,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal also said the counsel of the NCVHS will be sought in shaping upcoming privacy and security policy decisions to “take advantage of work they're doing.”
Asked whether that also included the two Leavitt-era NCVHS reports on privacy and security relegated to the round file, Blumenthal said, “We're absolutely going to take a look at those.”
In late October, Blumenthal told members of the Health Information Technology Policy Committee that he wanted to pause and take second looks at whether the country was heading in the right direction in developing the nationwide health information network and at an appropriate national policy for health information privacy and security.
Blumenthal said at the October meeting that he and others at the ONC realized the nation still doesn't have a set of privacy principles “that make sense.”
Thus, Blumenthal overrode a HIT Policy Committee member and decided to create a work group of the committee dedicated to privacy and security.
Deven McGraw is the director of the Health Privacy Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based think tank and one of two privacy experts required by law to be appointed to the HIT Policy Committee. McGraw, a lawyer, had earlier recommended against creating a specific work group for privacy, but says she has been asked to serve on the new work group and has agreed to do so. No solid date has been set for the first meeting, she said, perhaps because work group members are still being selected.
“I think there will be a meeting in December and once the ink gets dried on the people, they won't waste any time,” McGraw said.
“It's going to be meeting in a matter of weeks or days,” Blumenthal said Wednesday. “We also have held hearings on privacy and security issues.”
In fact, the HIT Standards Committee held a daylong meeting on security issues last month.
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