New health privacy project is launched

By Nancy zz_Ferris
05:57 PM

Two respected nonprofit organizations have joined forces in an attempt to resolve the difficult privacy issues associated with health information technology.

The Center for Democracy and Technology and the Health Privacy Project, both founded by Janlori Goldman in the mid-1990s, will merge within CDT and begin a new health privacy effort.

Goldman no longer will direct the Health Privacy Project. CDT has recruited Deven McGraw, chief operating officer at the National Partnership for Women and Families and a well-known health IT consumer advocate, for that role.

McGraw and Leslie Harris, the president and chief executive officer of CDT, said today they are committed to resolving privacy issues in a way that facilitates the adoption and use of health IT and health information exchange.

"We believe we're at a seminal moment," Harris said. "...The next few years are critical in getting this right."

She said the new project could help break the logjam in Congress over privacy, a logjam that has blocked passage of any major health IT legislation in recent years.

"We have got to move on this," McGraw said. "There really isn't any other choice but to go forward." She said the project will strive for pragmatic, consensus solutions.

The new health privacy project is being financed by the Markle Foundation, with additional support from the California Health Care Foundation. Harris said it has the resources to examine the full range of issues relating to privacy and health IT.

The project will build on the work Markle sponsored in the Connecting for Health project.

In the short term, the project will respond to several health IT bills pending in Congress. McGraw said legislation that steers a course down the middle of the pending bills is probably the way to go.

"This is clearly an issue that Congress is worried about and the public is worried about," Harris said.

Although the project will be a resource for states, McGraw indicated that it will focus on the federal level. "There really are areas where there need to be national standards," she said. On the other hand, solutions that will work at the federal level may emerge from the states, she said.