28 Jun HHS official addresses industry concerns on Federal Health Architecture
Wisconsin’s own talks on developing program
MADISON, Wis. – The federal government is working quickly and keeping the concerns of the private sector in mind while developing a Federal Health Architecture (FHA), Kathleen Heuer, deputy assistant secretary of budget, technology and finance for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the audience at the Digital Healthcare Conference during her keynote speech Wednesday.
Heuer, a University of Wisconsin-Madison alum and former controller for the UW Medical Foundation, said that HSS Secretary Tommy Thompson has made a priority of implementing the architecture, which will facilitate communication between multiple branches of the government and the private sector in an effort to reduce medical mistakes and ultimately save money.
In an executive order on April 27, President Bush requested the creation of a new position, the National Health Information Technology Coordinator. On May 6, shortly after Bush’s order, Thompson appointed David Brailer to the position, a sign that the government is working quickly, Heuer said.
“You know Tommy, he’s always pushing to get things done,” she said.
Brailer, who was a physician before taking the position, will present a strategic framework at the National Health Information Infrastructure (NHII) conference on July 20. While many specific details are unknown about the framework, Heuer said, Brailer is using an unlikely model as inspiration: electronic banking and the IRS e-file effort, which Brailer cites as a successful collaboration between government and industry in sharing information.
Heuer said while information technology will be used to help the government meet their goals of successfully sharing information and improving the quality of health care, IT alone is not a goal itself.
“Information technology should always be thought of as a support mechanism for how we do business,” Heuer said, “But IT in and of itself is not the solution.”
In order to ensure the FHA is convenient and user friendly for the private sector, Heuer promised extensive outreach efforts and an on-going effort to better understand what industry needs and how the process is working for them.
“It’s about how we can we work together to make this an achievable vision,” she said.
Many in the audience said that there was not yet enough information on the FHA to form an opinion on it until Brailer addressed the NHII conference in July.
Michael Weymier, principal of pmMaturity, said many industries are already dissatisfied with some of the government’s actions, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
“HIPAA talks about privacy for the patient, some regulations passed relatively recently,” Weymier said. “But what they do is pose a significant burden on health care providers to ensure the privacy of patient records, and some organizations think they’re quite intrusive and are looking for a revision, so there’s concern, I think, on my part as well as some other people in this organization that any additional regulations the government imposes will be that much more difficult to comply with, so I hope that people like Kathleen with take that into account and address that matter.”
Still, Weymier said, Heuer’s speech was promising.
“[She talked about] not having the government impose additional regulations but rather provide guidelines that can be used by the private sector. That’s an excellent approach, so I’m heartened by what she said all in all.”