Healthcare IT Needs Regulatory Harmonization Too

As reported in Healthcare IT News this week, HHS awarded contracts to 22 states and territories to examine state privacy laws and security practices as they relate to health information exchange. The contracts and subcontracts with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and RTI International will examine privacy and security issues and examine variations in state laws and propose solutions to address any lack of uniformity.

You might think of this work as "standards harmonization" of the laws and regulations governing privacy, healthcare data and data exchange. Such rules exist to protect patient privacy (and frankly sometimes to protect special interests) in local and state jurisdictions. Lack of uniformity in such rules and regulations also gets in the way of provisioning healthcare information and medical services in our digital age; for instance telemedicine.

I was recently quoted as saying that most of the work we need to do to modernize healthcare IT is no longer about technology. We have most of the technology we need. It's about breaking through special interests, antiquated laws and regulations that prevent us from enjoying the benefits of a knowledge-driven, collaborative and seamless healthcare system.

That fact doesn't seem to be lost on the good folks at AHRQ. Director, Carolyn Clancy, is quoted as saying, "One of the strongest early lessons we're learning from our research on electronic health information is that some of the main challenges for adoption are not technical issues. Rather, they're issues of inclusion and trust".

To that I say, Amen!

What do you think? Let us know.

Bill Crounse, MD Healthcare Industry Director   Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences