Health IT


Alice Lipowicz

Health IT

By Alice Lipowicz

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VA-DOD health data exchange may be down for a month

It looks like the Veterans Affairs Department was too optimistic in predicting it would soon resume the VA-Defense Department exchange of patient medical information after a shutdown of the system on March 1. The exchange was halted because errors were popping up in the data on a regular basis.

Roger Baker, the VA’s CIO, now says the exchange system may be down for a month, according to a report by Bob Brewin in Nextgov on March 16. Meanwhile, the VA and DOD are using paper and fax machines to handle the patient data.

In a followup to another developing VA news story, the Personal Health Information Privacy blog obtained some interesting comments from a Kaiser Permanente spokesman regarding Kaiser's cybersecurity protocols for veterans taking part in a VA-Kaiser health data exchange in San Diego.

Posted on Mar 18, 2010 at 7:25 PM0 comments


What role should government play in health IT?

A federal advisory workgroup has added new language to the Health and Human Services Department’s Health IT Strategic Framework that aims to clarify federal roles.

The updated document was considered by HHS' Health IT Policy Committee's strategic planning workgroup on March 9. The policy committee advises the HHS national coordinator for health IT.

The framework makes for interesting reading because it spells out — perhaps for the first time — recognition of four long-term, strategic federal roles in health IT. And it also inspires a few questions about those roles and how they might be applied in practice.

The first role is the provision of health IT resources to support public goods including public health, biomedical research, quality improvement and emergency preparedness.

The second role of federal involvement in health IT should occur “when information asymmetries hinder the development of a private market,” the document states. In those cases, government should get involved in setting standards, implementation specifications and certification criteria.

The third role is for government “to spur the adoption of health IT and the development of means for health information exchange to assure the critical mass of users necessary to create a self-sustaining system of interoperable health IT.”

And the fourth role of the government should be using health IT to improve the efficiency of population health programs.

The third and fourth roles could use a bit more explanation. Perhaps this is rhetorical, but why is it necessarily a federal role to spur adoption of health IT? The answer is not self-evident. If health IT and health data exchange are, on their own, public goods, perhaps that should be spelled out more clearly.

Posted on Mar 10, 2010 at 7:25 PM0 comments


Kaiser policies for veteran health records still raising questions

Is there a conflict in Kaiser Permanente’s descriptions of its security policies on electronic health records? I will be looking more deeply at this question. It could mean a lot to the veterans in San Diego who are sharing their medical records with Kaiser.

Last week, I read a news article and a blog item about Kaiser Permanente’s policies regarding protection of patient records it is accessing in the course of providing care

On March 5 I blogged about my interview with Dr. John Mattison, chief medical information officer for Kaiser Permanente Southern California, which includes the San Diego region, who described security and privacy of veterans’ health information held in Kaiser’s systems. The VA and Kaiser are jointly demonstrating health data exchange in the San Diego area.

Today Larry Scott of VA Watchdog.org wrote a blog item suggesting there may be conflicting statements in the two views presented by Kaiser. What do you think?

Posted on Mar 08, 2010 at 7:25 PM2 comments


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