National health IT policy coordinator ready to implement rules

David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health IT policy, said at HIMSS10 that his work is starting to shift from drafting regulations to implementing and supporting them.

With the rules and regulations for a national health IT policy nearly finished, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) soon will turn its attention to implementation.

The process ahead resembles an Alpine ski race, said David Blumenthal, the national coordinator forhealth IT policy, in a keynote address at the HIMSS10 annual conference of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society: “We have to move fast, but we can’t miss a turn.” Fortunately, “I think the wind is at our back in so many ways,” he added.

Those regulations -- the proposed criteria for the meaningful use of electronic health record systems; the interim final rule for standards and specifications for EHR systems; and, announced yesterday, the proposed rule regarding certification programs for EHR systems -- by and large will be finished by the end of the spring, Blumenthal said.

From there, the ONC will be implementing the various parts of the new health IT policy, in a process that comprises several tasks, Blumenthal said:

• Working with the national Health IT Policy and Health IT Standards committees to examine Stage 2 of meaningful use

• Creating a health IT resource center from which the recently announced 32 Regional Extension Centers (REC) can access best practices

• Developing standards and protocols for the Nationwide Health Information Network and the recently announced NHIN Direct project, which will work on a local level

• Overseeing the creation and development of 40 state health information exchanges and 15 “beacon communities,” the latter of which aim to demonstrate the fruits of those laboring to implement EHR successfully

• Helping more than 50 colleges and other institutions create workforce training programs that will prepare students for work with providers and with RECs

• Developing performance metrics for all these programs

Information is the lifeblood of medicine, and health IT is destined to be its circulatory system.

David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health IT policy

The HITECH Act, which set in motion the rulemaking process for health IT policy and prompted Blumenthal’s appointment last March, is a “huge, unprecedented ambition,” he said.

The national coordinator is confident, however, that physicians will learn to stop worrying and love IT. When providers fail to manage clinical information effectively and efficiently, both patient care and the level of professional trust with which patients regard physicians suffer.

“I came to understand that information is the lifeblood of medicine, and health IT is destined to be its circulatory system,” Blumenthal said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Brian Eastwood, Site Editor.

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