Rein resigns from HITSP board of directors

Alison Rein, one of only two consumer representatives on the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel board of directors, a federally supported advisory group tasked with improving health information exchange by harmonizing data standards, has resigned–more than two months ago–although an e-mail making public her resignation and including a call for her replacement wasn’t sent until late in the day Wednesday.

Rein, the assistant director for food and health policy at the National Consumers League, a Washington-based not-for-profit corporation, was midway through a two-year term on the 23-member board.

The resignation, though not in protest, comes with Rein adding her voice to those of several others recently who criticized federal efforts to promote healthcare information technology without first firmly establishing a foundation of a national healthcare privacy policy.

In a telephone interview, Rein said the federal government is only now “grudgingly” paying attention to privacy issues. On Feb. 1, a General Accountability Office report accused HHS of foot-dragging in developing an IT privacy policy and a few weeks later, Paul Feldman, deputy director of the Health Privacy Project at Georgetown University, resigned his co-chairmanship of an HHS privacy work group, saying much the same thing.

HITSP was created in 2005 by the American National Standards Institute, pursuant to a $3.3 million HHS contract. ANSI, a Washington-based not-for-profit organization, accredits standards development organizations and coordinates the development and use of standards in the U.S.

{HITSP has been absorbed with detailed technical use cases that do not provide consumers with control over access to their electronic health records. HITSP has not promoted consumer involvement. As Rein said, “If they truly want to have consumer engagement in this process, someone has to say it’s really meaningful to have consumers involved and support that. So far, the government hasn’t supported anyone doing this and neither have any foundations. It’s not an uncommon problem, but it is a reality that we all have been struggling with.” ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

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