‘Consumer’ groups vie for HITSP board opening

Two self-described “consumer” organizations, both with humble beginnings, are competing to have their representative voted onto the one vacant spot on the board of directors of a federally funded panel that anoints healthcare information technology standards for the proposed national healthcare information network.

Balloting announcements for one of two spots allocated to consumer organizations on the 23-member board of the Health Information Technology Standards Panel went out via e-mail Tuesday. The organization was launched in 2005 pursuant to a $3.3 million HHS contract with the American National Standards Institute, New York, an accreditation body for standards development organizations. ANSI provides administrative services to the HITSP.

One consumer organization is the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, a not-for-profit founded in 2003 by one of the two candidates, Deborah Peel, an Austin, Texas-based psychiatrist. The privacy group recently doubled the square footage of its floor space when the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas moved out of the three-room office the two organizations shared in a low-rise office building developed by Peel’s husband. Come July, when a newly hired executive director comes onboard, the foundation will more than double its payroll to one full-time employee and one part-time employee. Peel said she donates her time.

{A product manager for Google is running for election to 1 of only 2 consumer seats on the 23-member board of the Health Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP). HITSP is charged with developing privacy standards for electronic systems by HHS. Since when is such a large corporation a “consumer organization”?  Google has customers and shareholders; it certainly does not represent consumers and patients. HITSP has many slots for industry “stakeholders”, why doesn’t Google run for one of those? The discovery that Google can designate itself as a “consumer organization” and seek a seat on HITSP makes clear how industry-driven and dominated the process for building the national electronic health system really is. HITSP’s operations ensure that our legal and ethical rights to control access to our medical records privacy rights will receive little attention. The foxes are in charge of this chicken coop. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

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