The CalPSAB advises the state's health secretary on healthcare privacy and security policy. Given the traditional leadership role that California plays in the healthcare industry, the board's recommendations could influence how patient consent is handled in electronic health information exchanges nationwide.
"Basically, it's an opportunity for Consumers Union and the representative from CDT to present any information they have relative to the board's position," Kam says. "It's really a discussion between the two groups."
McGraw, a lawyer, is a member of the federally charted Health IT Policy Committee, created pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to advise the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS. McGraw also serves on five work groups or subcommittees of the Health IT Policy Committee. She is chairwoman of its privacy and security workgroup and co-chairwoman of its privacy and security tiger team.
The ONC is heading the federal government's multibillion-dollar effort to promote the use of electronic health records systems under the ARRA, including $27 billion in direct incentive payments to providers to adopt and meaningfully use electronic health records systems. ONC also is tasked with developing a proposed nationwide health information network, of which privacy and security issues are key concerns.
McGraw and Savage sent a letter Oct. 6 to California Health and Human Services Sec. S. Kimberly Belshe along with a copy of the tiger team's recommendations on privacy and security for health information exchange originally sent to ONC head David Blumenthal on Aug. 19. They also sent Belshe a 10-page "briefing paper" summarizing those recommendations and a follow-up letter Dec. 5.
The briefing paper urged California to "adopt a comprehensive framework of privacy protections such as that recommended by the tiger team." The brief also warned that with the first stage of a federal IT incentive program beginning soon, without a consent policy in place, "California's privacy and security framework for patient health information cannot be completed." Furthermore, if that framework isn't completed, the brief asserted, "eligible providers cannot achieve the meaningful-use criteria and benefit from the substantial federal reimbursements."
Consumers Union officials were not available for comment.
Officially, the ONC is not a party to the push by McGraw and Savage to leverage the federal tiger team's work in California, according to the ONC.
Asked whether the ONC was aware of and supports the efforts of McGraw in Califonria, spokeswoman Nancy Szemraj said, "We have no knowledge of this letter."