June 26, 2007
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
United States Senate
Thank you for your commitment to advancing health information technology (HIT) and for your hard work on the Wired for Health Care Quality Act. We appreciated the opportunity to comment on the draft circulated last month and believe that the bill is improved over the version that passed the Senate last Congress. Expanded use of HIT has great potential to help patients and their families assume a more participatory role in their own health care, improve the safety and quality of care, and increase system efficiency. The Wired for Health Care Quality Act will move us forward toward achieving these goals and we are pleased to support its favorable consideration by the Senate HELP Committee.
We remain concerned, however, that the bill does not include strong language requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to adopt a privacy and security framework that encompasses all generally accepted fair information practices and governs all federally funded efforts to advance HIT. As noted in our recently submitted comments, for at least the past three years our coalition has been pushing HHS (and in particular, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT) to adopt an overarching set of privacy and security principles (or a privacy and security framework) to govern its activities. To date, HHS has declined to do so and instead has aggressively pursued the development of technical standards that can be used to certify HIT products and that will advance narrow categories of HIT activities, or “use cases.”
Ensuring that patients and consumers trust in the system’s ability to protect their personal health information is critical to advancing HIT, so important privacy and security issues must be addressed at the outset. As the bill moves through the legislative process, we hope that this issue will receive further consideration.
Again, thank you for your work to expand the use of HIT. We look forward to working with you further on this legislation.
National Partnership for Women & Families
American Association of People with Disabilities
Center for Medical Consumers
Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
Health Care for All
National Consumers League