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Commission Ready To Work On National Health-Records System

Eleven-member commission, sworn in Monday, has until Oct. 31 to create a plan for electronic health records.

The 11 members of a federal commission charged by Congress to create a plan for every American to get electronic health records were sworn in Monday in Washington, D.C.

Commission chairman Scott Wallace, president and CEO of the health industry organization The National Alliance for Health Information Technology, says members will not only "prioritize the priorities" involved with creating a national infrastructure for interoperable E-health records, but also will discuss the broader issues related to the goal. "We'll examine obstacles to implementation, financial incentives, and what needs to be done [for IT] to transform the nation's health care," Wallace says.

The Commission on Systemic Interoperability, established as part of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, will work over the next 10 months with the public and private health sectors to establish priorities and develop a strategy and time line for implementing an infrastructure that supports interoperable electronic health-care systems across the nation. The commission, whose members met for the first time as a group after the swearing-in ceremony at the office of outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, must present a plan to Congress by Oct. 31 for getting widespread adoption of standards-based, universal, secure, and interoperable electronic health records.

The 11 members of the commission were named by President Bush, the speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader, the Senate minority leader, and the House minority leader.

There's a sense of urgency around the issue this year, with the hope of using IT to cut costs and prevent errors. Bush last year set out the goal for "most" Americans to have electronic health records by 2014. "Your work will be critical to making the vision for health IT a reality, so we urge you to keep practical application in mind as you develop recommendation and draft your report," reads a Jan. 10 letter to the commission from Congress. "We also encourage you to work with due urgency to take advantage of the opportunity that lies before us this year."

Other members of the commission include Dr. C. Martin Harris, CIO and chairman of the Information Technology Division at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation (Harris is the only CIO in group); Arnold Milstein, M.D., medical director at the Pacific Business Group on Health; Dr. Don E. Detmer, president and CEO, American Medical Informatics Association; and Vicky Gregg, president and CEO, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee.

Return to the Health-Care Leaders HomepageThe remaining members of the commission are Gary Mecklenburg, president and CEO, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare; Herbert Pardes, M.D., president and CEO, New York Presbyterian Hospital; Thomas M. Priselac, president and CEO, Cedars-Sinai Health System; Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and CEO, Verizon Communications; Fredrick W. Slunecka, regional president, Avera McKennan; and Dr. William W. Stead, associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs and professor of Medicine and Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

This story was updated on Jan. 13 to indicate a late change in the members of the commission.

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee is a former editor for InformationWeek. View Full Bio

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