Health IT

By Alice Lipowicz

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HHS' Blumenthal disputes rumors on health IT spying

Although the Health and Human Services Department is collaborating with the Justice Department on a terminology and process for nationwide health data exchange, a senior HHS official recently denied Internet-based rumors that health data might be funneled to law enforcement or spy agencies.

Dr. David Blumenthal, HHS’ national coordinator for health information technology, rejected speculation that is popping up in Internet blogs that the HHS’ Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) may transfer any patient data or control over data to federal agencies such as the CIA, FBI or National Security Agency.

According to a March 30 report in Modern Healthcare, Blumenthal talked about the speculation at the March 24 meeting of the Health IT Standards Committee. The panel advises HHS on economic stimulus funding for health IT.

The topic of discussion there was HHS’ testing of Justice’s National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), for possible use in a version of the NHIN. The NIEM is a process by which the Justice Department worked with law enforcement and other responder agencies following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to develop information sharing, including adopting common terminology and technical standards.

I quickly did a Google search hoping to turn up signs of these alleged rumors about the NHIN and NIEM collaboration, but I was unsuccessful in finding anything but a few scattered blog comments.

Blumenthal, I am sure, hoped to put the speculation to rest, but there is always a risk when a prominent official gives attention to random comments in cyberspace. In my experience as a journalist, I’ve seen that any kind of attention, good or bad, has the potential to stoke the fires.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Apr 01, 2010 at 7:25 PM


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