Report: HHS Has Weak Plan for Health IT Privacy
A report states the Department of Health and Human Services lacks a clear plan to protect patient privacy as the use of health information technology expands.A prominent health IT think tank has advocated against granting more authority to health IT personnel within the federal government, saying that such responsibility should instead fall to elected officials, or those with "direct public accountability." The sobering words were spurred by a report by the United States Government Accountability Office that states the Department of Health and Human Services lacks a clear plan to protect patient privacy as the use of health information technology expands. It concluded that HHS had not yet defined basic privacy principles or determined how to integrate work from several groups that are currently assessing privacy issues. The report listed several workgroups established to explore policy issues, but recommended a more integrated approach. HHS officials argued that GAO was not considering the need for flexibility, and that individual state regulations and policies make establishing broader policies more difficult. It also stated that its approach already was integrated. However, other reports have also called for a need for more integrated efforts, particularly in the establishment of a National Health Information Network. In addition, the GAO reports that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs concurred with the reports findings. The VA is not only well-respected for its health IT use, but the current health IT czar Robert Kolodner worked at the VA until assuming his current position last September.
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