Experts Call for Greater Interoperability, Privacy Standards in Health IT

As part of a broad effort to advance the interoperability of health IT systems, the health care industry needs additional tools to achieve the "meaningful use" of electronic health records, according to witnesses who testified before the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation on Thursday, Modern Healthcare reports.

Work in Progress

National Coordinator for Health IT David Blumenthal said that HHS has made "considerable progress" in promoting health IT efforts, including:

  • The creation of federal health IT advisory committees;
  • A final rule on Stage 1 of the meaningful use program; and
  • Distributing funds from the 2009 economic stimulus package.

However, he acknowledged that "much work still remains" to reach future goals.

Concerns on Standards

Joyce Sensmeier -- vice president of informatics for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society -- said more streamlined data security standards need to be developed to successfully implement Stage 1 meaningful use criteria (Lubell, Modern Healthcare, 9/30).

Sensmeier said that vendors will need adequate time to incorporate future meaningful use standards into product development plans. She added that federal officials may confuse the vendor marketplace by creating multiple standards for similar criteria, such as for clinical documentation (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 10/1).

Richard Gibson -- president of the Oregon Health Network -- said new standards are necessary to govern how patient information is transferred directly between health care providers and between EHR systems (Modern Healthcare, 9/30).

Improving Privacy and Security

Deven McGraw -- director of the Center for Democracy & Technology's health privacy project -- recommended stronger requirements to further improve the privacy and security of health data.

Some of the suggestions include:

  • Denying meaningful use incentives to health care providers who significantly violate HIPAA rules;
  • Mandating strong security safeguards, such as encryption; and
  • Providing patients a limited right to sue for violations of privacy (Goedert, Health Data Management, 9/30).

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