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HIPAA, Meaningful Use on Busy HIT Docket

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, May 19, 2009

The tight deadlines the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology must meet under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) provisions of the stimulus law (aka the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) are spelled out in a new eight-page operating plan released May 18.

Over the next several weeks, the national coordinator, David Blumenthal, MD, will hold hearings and meetings "to develop and vet plans and procedures." The plan notes that the office of the national coordinator will act "swiftly but thoughtfully" to fulfill its legislative obligations.

The plan notes deadlines related to 19 regulations, guidance, reports, and studies, including issuing rules related to HIPAA privacy, security, and enforcement. This includes issuing regulations to modify the HIPAA privacy rule to "generally prohibit exchanging health information for remuneration without individual authorization" and issuing guidance on what constitutes "minimum necessary" under the HIPAA privacy rule.

The definition of what is considered "meaningful use" of an electronic health record system is not included in this plan. "Specific understanding of what constitutes meaningful use will be determined through a process that will include broad stakeholder input and discussion," the document says, with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) "developing milestones for major phases of the program’s activities with planned delivery dates."

The Office of the National Coordinator also will be responsible for establishing methods of communicating with the public, such as through a new Web site, according to the plan.

Also, under the operating plan, the office will be responsible for sending to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius an initial set of standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria in September, and publishing them by Dec. 31.


Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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