White House sets up health IT task force

Goal is better coordination for key federal agencies

The White House will form an interagency task force to coordinate federal health information technology programs.

The task force will be led by the Health and Human Services Department’s National Coordinator for Health IT, Dr. David Blumenthal. It will have officials from the Agriculture, Commerce, Defense and Veterans Affairs departments, the Social security Administration and the Office of Personnel Management, according to a Feb. 19 memo from the Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The group is needed to facilitate President Obama’s health reform agenda and distributing $20 billion in economic stimulus law funding for health IT. Currently, lack of coordination among many councils and advisory groups is holding back progress, the memo said.

“The fragmentation of current federal health IT responsibilities, programs and coordinating mechanisms must be overcome to execute effectively the president's program,” Orszag and Sebelius wrote.

Existing interagency health IT groups would be dissolved to form a Government-wide Health IT Task Force for policy development, implementation, coordination and transparency. The task force would span DOD, the VA, the SSA, USDA, OPM and Commerce.

Membership would be limited to those agencies because they are the primary agencies for federal health IT. However, work groups on the task force would allow for broad participation from all federal agencies, the memo said.

OMB's health program associate director, as well as the federal government's chief information officer and chief technology officer, will be vice-chairs of the task force, the memo said.

Immediate topics for discussion include the Federal Health Architecture, deployment of the Beacon Community program to highlight implementations of health IT in communities, coordinating privacy and security standards in the federal government and between federal and private stakeholders, and interoperability and health information exchange between federal and private health care providers.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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