PCAST Releases Health IT Report

Today the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology released a highly anticipated report providing detailed recommendations to the President and Federal agencies about how to take better advantage of information technology to increase healthcare quality while reducing costs.

Released at an event featuring Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and National Economic Council director Lawrence Summers, the report—Realizing the Full Potential of Health Information Technology to Improve Healthcare for Americans: The Path Forward—notes that healthcare could benefit enormously from greater use of information technology (IT). Yet it is one of the few economic sectors in the Nation that has largely failed to tap into the power of IT.

Reflecting input from industry and IT experts, privacy groups, healthcare professionals, and others, the report calls upon the Federal government to facilitate the widespread adoption of a “universal exchange language” that would allow the transfer of  pieces of health data while maximizing privacy. Such a system would allow people’s health data to follow them wherever they go, and help physicians provide the highest possible level of care, while giving patients unprecedented control over who has access to their information. At the same time, it can save the Nation money by increasing efficiency and reducing redundancy.

Importantly, implementation of PCAST’s recommendations would not require physicians to replace their existing electronic health records systems, virtually all of which could be made compatible through “apps” and other “middleware.” And they do not call for creation of a centralized Federal database of people’s health information or the assigning of Federal healthcare identifier numbers to individuals.

To help implement its recommendations, the report calls upon ONC and CMS to create appropriate definitions of “meaningful use” as they craft standards for health information technology, which under law must be achieved in stages by 2013 and 2015. It also calls upon CMS to accelerate the modernization and restructuring of its IT platforms and staff expertise.

For more information, see whitehouse.gov/ostp/pcast.

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