NewsMonitor: Keep AHIC panel part of government

Sixty-four percent of Healthcare IT News readers who responded to the most recent News Monitor poll said that converting the American Health Information Community from a federal advisory group to a private-sector organization is a bad idea.

Michael Leavitt, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, is leading the charge to have AHIC privatized. HHS wants to have a new organization launched by January 2009.

Thirty-six percent of News Monitor poll respondents agreed with Leavitt that AHIC would be more useful if privatized.

One hundred and five people responded to the question. Almost all the readers who included comments with their responses stood opposed to the privatization of AHIC.

AHIC “needs to be a government function with authority and control over federal healthcare IT initiatives,” wrote Peter Andersen, MD, clinical informatics officer for HIT solutions at Lockheed Martin. “Private sector governance bodies have uniformly been ineffective at driving convergence.”

Raymond Peter Zambuto, CEO of Technology in Medicine, Inc., in Holliston, Mass., also said privatization of AHIC would be a bad idea.

“Unless and until the federal government commits to take a continuing active role in the process, the NHIN (Nationwide Health Information Network) and reduction in medical errors…will not occur,” Zambuto wrote. “The federal government is the largest stakeholder in terms of patient populations, and by privatizing the AHIC effort, it is abandoning it to a marketplace with conflicting incentives.”

A few endorsed HHS’ plan to privatize AHIC.

 “Healthcare IT experts will be more willing to participate in a private initiative rather than a bureaucratic one,” wrote one anonymous reader. “As a consumer, we don’t need another layer of government.”

AHIC intends to deliver a recommendation to Leavitt by Sept. 18 on how best to transition to a successor organization.