Health IT standards body to be formed soon

Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt is expected soon to name the members of the public-private organization that will set standards to enable the exchange of health care data.

Leavitt will select 17 members from federal and state government and from industry, including health care providers, insurers and IT vendors, to form the American Health Information Community.

AHIC also will choose the use cases for which standards will be implemented. Leavitt suggested electronic prescribing and bio-surveillance as early use cases. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina has heightened the need for bio- and pandemic surveillance and interoperability standards to allow sharing of data, for example, from emergency rooms, he said

"Our pace has to be increased," he told the Second Health IT Summit held in conjunction with the 11th National HIPAA Summit in Washington, D.C. The health IT summit was sponsored by the eHealth Initiative, a nonprofit health IT industry organization.

Interoperability will jump-start a market and spur adoption of such health IT systems as electronic health records, Leavitt said.

Katrina destroyed the paper medical records of thousands of New Orleans evacuees, many of whom are ill and no longer have medications. "With most medical records gone, if there ever was a case for electronic health records, this is it," Leavitt said.

In addition to AHIC, HHS will be awarding contracts over the next several weeks to develop a process for standards harmonization, health IT product accreditation organization, prototypes for health IT architecture and assessing variations in state privacy rules.

Mary Mosquera is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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