Blumenthal calls for keeping the focus on patients

In his inaugural appearance at HIMSS10, David Blumenthal, MD, national coordinator for health information technology, reiterated his support for healthcare IT, calling information the "lifeblood of medicine."

Healthcare IT is "destined to be its circulatory system," he said. As long as the focus is kept on the value to patients and the promise to individual and population health, "we will not go astray in our efforts to implement healthcare IT," he said.

While 2009 was spent mostly developing policy, Blumenthal said, "now begins the process of implementation." By the end of spring when three regulations will be finalized, the "new era of high-tech" can be launched and the next iteration of meaningful use standards and criteria will be addressed, he said.

Blumenthal discussed the four regulatory "breakthroughs" the federal government implemented:

  • the proposed rule on meaningful use,
  • the interim final rule on standards, and certification criteria for EHRs,
  • the Notice of Proposed Rule Making for the certification process and
  • the new guidance on Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA).

He reviewed the wide range of programs that will be funded by the $2 billion of discretionary funding made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Health IT Policy Committee created a new working group that is currently focusing on privacy and security, as well as addressing cybersecurity issues on the broader federal level.

The NHIN Direct, a set of standards and protocols, is being developed so that resource-strapped providers and other healthcare organizations will be able to connect to the Nationwide Health Information Network.

With bipartisan support, the inevitability of science, and the power of professionalism, Blumenthal reiterated his optimism for advancing healthcare IT.