Health IT

By Alice Lipowicz

Blog archive

What role should government play in health IT?

A federal advisory workgroup has added new language to the Health and Human Services Department’s Health IT Strategic Framework that aims to clarify federal roles.

The updated document was considered by HHS' Health IT Policy Committee's strategic planning workgroup on March 9. The policy committee advises the HHS national coordinator for health IT.

The framework makes for interesting reading because it spells out — perhaps for the first time — recognition of four long-term, strategic federal roles in health IT. And it also inspires a few questions about those roles and how they might be applied in practice.

The first role is the provision of health IT resources to support public goods including public health, biomedical research, quality improvement and emergency preparedness.

The second role of federal involvement in health IT should occur “when information asymmetries hinder the development of a private market,” the document states. In those cases, government should get involved in setting standards, implementation specifications and certification criteria.

The third role is for government “to spur the adoption of health IT and the development of means for health information exchange to assure the critical mass of users necessary to create a self-sustaining system of interoperable health IT.”

And the fourth role of the government should be using health IT to improve the efficiency of population health programs.

The third and fourth roles could use a bit more explanation. Perhaps this is rhetorical, but why is it necessarily a federal role to spur adoption of health IT? The answer is not self-evident. If health IT and health data exchange are, on their own, public goods, perhaps that should be spelled out more clearly.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Mar 10, 2010 at 12:14 PM


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