NHIN, privacy front and center at HIT policy meeting

The head of federal efforts to boost the use of health information technology told members of an IT advisory panel Tuesday that they need to step back and take a second look at the proposed national health information network, and also come up some advice on a national policy framework for IT privacy and security that makes sense.

“The need became clear to me when we were talking about privacy and security,” at the prior HIT Policy Committee in September. Three privacy advocates gave testimony at that meeting.

“We realized,” Blumenthal said, the nation hadn’t “had a set of principles that make sense. We have decided it would be helpful to have a privacy and security work group.”

According to a slide presentation Blumenthal used while making his remarks, the new work group will “create recommendations based on results of the September privacy hearing.” He said the new HIT Policy Committee’s privacy and security work group will leverage the work of its counterpart privacy and security work group of the HIT Standards Committee, a second IT advisory panel created under the stimulus law, which is to provide recommendations to Blumenthal on technical matters…

…Another witness was Deborah Peel, an Austin, Texas, psychiatrist who founded the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation. Peel testified that patient control over the release of their health information is supported by the U.S. Constitution, many state constitutions and common law in all 50 states. Far from being a barrier to health information sharing, patient control over their information “is the easiest, cheapest, and most efficient enabler of health information exchange” in that it “assures ‘data liquidity’ by eliminating the need for expensive, complex and cumbersome agreements among stakeholders for HIE.”

A third privacy expert was Latanya Sweeney, a member of the HIT Policy Committee appointed to fill a slot reserved by statute for a privacy expert. Sweeney is an associate professor of computer science, technology and policy and director of its Data Privacy Lab. Sweeney has a doctorate in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and reportedly worked under contract to the Defense Department on developing privacy protections in national security surveillance scheme, according to news reports.

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