Commissioners Selected for American Health Information Community

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt today selected 16 commissioners to serve on the American Health Information Community (the Community), a federally-chartered commission charged with advising the Secretary on how to make health information digital and interoperable. The work of the Community will help the country achieve the President’s goal of having most Americans using interoperable electronic health records within 10 years. Patients, doctors, hospitals and insurance companies will have access to vital and confidentiality-protected medical information immediately and efficiently, helping to reduce medical errors, improve quality, lower costs and eliminate paperwork hassle.

“The President has set a national goal to move health care from the paper age to the information age, and the American Health Information Community will help guide this transformation.” Secretary Leavitt said. “My aspiration is for the Community to provide stakeholders with a meaningful voice in a federal process that will ultimately shape health care for generations.”

Interoperability of health information is a shared goal among health care payers, providers, vendors and consumers. Myriad competitive interests have prevented a unified effort to achieve common standards and interoperability. As a result, health care has lagged behind other industries — like the banking, transportation, and retail trade — in realizing the benefits of modern information technology (IT).

“From nearly anywhere in the world, we can withdraw money from our bank accounts, pay bills, apply for a mortgage, book airline tickets and even order groceries online,” Secretary Leavitt said. “But, more often than not, we can’t share a X-ray digitally, from one hospital to another, even if they are on opposing street corners. Even worse, if a loved one is involved in a life-threatening accident, paramedics and emergency room doctors cannot quickly check their medical histories for even the most basic things like blood type or allergies. We can and must do better than this.”

The national strategy to confront this problem calls for federal agencies — that pay more than one third of all health care costs — to collaborate with private payers in developing and adopting an architecture, standards, certification process and a method of governance for ongoing implementation of health IT. Once the market has structure, patients, providers, medical professionals and vendors will innovate, create efficiencies and improve care.

Secretary Leavitt will chair the Community. In addition to the Secretary, commission membership includes the following:

  • Scott P. Serota, President and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
  • Douglas E. Henley, M.D., Executive Vice President, American Academy of Family Physicians
  • Lillee Smith Gelinas, R.N., Chief Nursing Officer, VHA Inc.
  • Charles N. Kahn III, President, Federation of American Hospitals
  • Nancy Davenport-Ennis, CEO, National Patient Advocate Foundation
  • Steven S Reinemund, CEO and Chairman, PepsiCo
  • Kevin D. Hutchinson, CEO, SureScripts
  • Craig R. Barrett, Chairman, Intel Corporation
  • E. Mitchell Roob, Secretary, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration
  • Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
  • Julie Louise Gerberding, M.D., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Jonathan B. Perlin, M.D., Under Secretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • William Winkenwerder Jr., M.D., Assistant Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense
  • Mark J. Warshawsky, Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy, Department of Treasury
  • Linda M. Springer, Director, Office of Personnel Management
  • Michelle O’Neill, Acting Under Secretary for Technology, Department of Commerce

“I have selected commissioners who represent key interests and have the broad support of their peers,” Secretary Leavitt said. “The Community will adhere to an aggressive timetable that focuses on the areas of critical need — such as adverse drug event reporting and bio-surveillance — as we get about the work of developing, setting and certifying standards.”

Dr. David Brailer, National Coordinator for Information Technology, added, “The Community will provide input and recommendations to HHS on how to make health information digital and interoperable, and assure that the privacy and security of that information is protected. The public-private nature of this group is designed to ensure that this nationwide transition to electronic health records — including common standards and interoperability — occurs in a smooth, market-led way.”

In addition to these commissioners, who will serve two-year terms, the Secretary will seek input from Advisors who will provide subject matter expertise on issues related to interoperability, adoption, privacy and security, and other matters identified by the Community. The federal members of the Community serve in their formal capacities as appointees within the federal system and not as individuals.

The first meeting of the Community is scheduled for Oct. 7, 2005 in Washington, D.C. The meeting is open to the public. Materials shared with the commissioners before and at the meeting, as well as minutes of the proceedings can be accessed online at www.hhs.gov/healthit.

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