HHS secretary pushes new health IT advisory panel

Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt said Friday that the government's existing advisory body on health information technology needs to be replaced with an entity that acts more like a corporate democracy than a political democracy.

Amid controversy over an HHS proposal to privatize the American Health Information Community, Leavitt led a public informational session to encourage collaboration among private and public organizations in forming the successor organization.

HHS is heading the creation of a new entity, as required under AHIC's 2005 charter. The current body counsels HHS on advancing the adoption of health IT. The replacement body would be an independent and sustainable public-private partnership, under the agency's proposition.

During the session, Leavitt compared apportioning power to the new AHIC with establishing the power structure of the U.S. republic.

"The question is, how do we create a governing process for this," he said. We have to "effect a transition in an orderly way" just as the founding fathers did in getting from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution. "This meeting, in my mind, is about: Who is George Washington?"

While some stakeholders might want the leader to be the HHS secretary, Leavitt said, he would prefer that a group of organizations lead the new AHIC. His rationale is that health IT standards should be developed outside the political process.

If Congress or the executive branch created the standards, Leavitt said, we "would get it wrong, because we'd be working in a vacuum."

Those who have criticized privatization of AHIC are primarily concerned that the proposed offshoot would lack accountability and transparency. Several consumer advocacy groups, labor organizations and the seniors' group AARP maintain that HHS needs to retain an active role in governance to ensure that standards reflect the national interest -- not business interests.

Leavitt tried to reassure them by saying, "We have to be at the table as full participants because we're not only going to use the standards; we're going to enforce the standards." He envisions the government involved as a "major" participant because of its financial stake in the whole operation. "We're clearly going to be one of the biggest payers."

An audience member from the National Partnership for Women and Families, a group that opposes privatization, said, "History has shown that one big problem with the Constitutional Convention was that there were huge swaths of the population that weren't present at the convention." The woman said nonprofits and other small outfits could be excluded from decision-making if they can't pay board dues or contribute as much funding as private-sector members.

Leavitt acknowledged that ensuring equal participation would be a challenge but said he wants the groups that form the new AHIC to conquer the issue. "I'm not the one to do that."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.