A Week in Review

For a week that had most of America asking, “what happened to summer?” and getting ready for school, you might think there is very little to report here. On the contrary, our ONC’s David Blumenthal was quite busy. Here is our week in review.

August 17 – The Federal Trade Commission issued a final rule requiring certain Web-based PHR vendor businesses to notify consumers when the security of their electronic health information is breached. Two days later, HHS issued an interim final rule requiring health care providers and health plans to notify individuals of unauthorized access to their PHIs.

The HHS and FTC interim rules were mandated by more stringent privacy and security requirements outlined in ARRA for HIPAA covered entities, business associates and certain non-HIPAA-covered entities. The laws ensure covered entities and business associates are accountable to HHS and patients for proper safeguarding of private information.

August 18 – HHS Secretary Sebelius gave formal authority to ONC David Blumenthal to administer grants and loans to promote the adoption of health information technology under ARRA. In the notice, authority was given to the national coordinator to administer grants for, infrastructure investment, provider EHR adoption, regional extension centers, research centers, and state grants to promote health IT.

August 19 – NAHIT announces they will cease operation on September 30, 2009. “After playing a major role in elevating health information technology (HIT) into a leadership issue that is widely recognized as fundamental to achieving such national and organizational imperatives as world-class patient care and lower health care costs, the National Alliance for Health Information Technology is ceasing operation on September 30.”

August 19 – ONC Blumenthal joins White House email campaign and pens the first in a series of ongoing updates from his office. Read his message.

August 20 – At a forum in Chicago, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Vice President Joe Biden announced availability of $1.2 billion in funds allocated by ARRA to facilitate EHR adoption and for incentives to doctors and hospitals that qualify as meaningful users of EHRs and creation of regional extension centers.

Later that afternoon, Sebelius and ONC David Blumenthal held a press conference by phone. Blumenthal continues to stand by his previous statements that the final rule on meaningful use will be early spring after a 60 day comment period commencing at the end of this year.

He also discussed the certification workgroup’s recommendation for multiple certifying bodies and said it would be premature to assume this would be how it will play out in the final ruling. Didn’t he make the comment at the last Policy meeting when someone commented on having only one certifying agency, “I don’t know how that could work”? Was that someone else making that comment? I need to check the transcripts on that.

August 20 – The HIT Standards Committee meeting brought us no surprises. Initial recommendations from all the workgroups were approved. And in case you were wondering about clinical observations, you will be using ICD-9 and SNOWMED CT in 2011, ICD-10 and SNOWMED CT in 2013, ending in only SNOWMED CT in 2015. Don’t blame me I have already warned you about this committee.