National Electronic Health Records Database Centered on 'Patient Choice,' Says HHS Chief Technology Officer

November 9, 2010 - 3:42 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Todd Park, the chief technology Officer at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told CNSNews.com that the national electronic health records database puts “a whole host of requirements” for patient privacy on health care providers. He also said the database is all about “patient choice.”

CNSNews.com asked Park if patients will be able to omit certain medical information from their government-required electronic health records.

“There’s been an extraordinary amount of effort as part of this whole process...put on privacy and security,” Park told CNSNews.com at a health conference in Washington on Monday.

“I’m not familiar with the details of that particular aspect of the program, but in general, I know that the operative principle of all this is patient choice -- you know, that’s it’s your information -- you should be able to control what happens to it, where it goes -- and so that very much is the guiding ethos of the requirements in general.”

Park said he is currently advising Dr. David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, on the national EHR database.

One of the "coolest things" about that database is that health care providers will get incentive payments for the "meaningful use of technology," Park said. Simply buying technology by itself isn’t useful, he explained. It’s the "meaningful use of technology" that "generates social benefit," Park told CNSNews.com.

Blumenthal and Marilyn Tavenner, the deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, issued a joint statement in August about the “meaningful use” of electronic health records.

According to their statement, “The goal of achieving widespread adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records by 2014" is set forth in a "HITECH" provision of the stimulus law. The HITECH Act directs the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to administer an incentive payments program for eligible health care providers who adopt and demonstrate "meaningful use" of certified electronic health records.

The three main components of “meaningful use” are specified in the $814 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 as follows: “The use of a certified EHR in a meaningful manner, such as e-prescribing; the use of certified EHR technology for electronic exchange of health information to improve quality of health care, and the use of certified EHR technology to submit clinical quality and other measures.”

Park, in his comments to CNSNews, hailed the "really terrific definition of meaningful use" that's emerged from a "really open public process."

He also noted that regional extension centers have been set up across the country to help providers, particularly small primary care providers and rural providers, get help with "how to meaningfully use health information technology." As far as making progress in establishing standards to guide health information exchanges -- "I think so far, so good,” Park said.