Blumenthal offers deadlines but puts off the hard decision

What all this should tell people in the health IT sector, whether proprietary or open source, is that the game is afoot, and that negotiations on how open source and proprietary programs will interact in a new health IT infrastructure are underway.

The government will publish its rulemaking and operating plan for $19 billion in Health IT stimulus by the end of the year, but a decision on what constitutes "meaningful use" is being delayed.

The plan was published by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONCHIT), which Dr. David Blumenthal (right) was appointed to head last month.

Since then ongoing ONCHIT head Dr. Robert Kolodner has announced his retirement.

The report also came out just days after the Health IT Advisors committee held its first meeting, under Blumenthal, and just over three weeks after he assumed office.

A HITECH operating plan, published online, says this about meaningful use:

Specific understanding of what constitutes meaningful use will be determined through a process that will include broad stakeholder input and discussion. HHS is developing milestones for major phases of the program’s activities with planned delivery dates.

Translation. We'll get back to you.

In a paper he published at The Commonwealth Fund in January, before being named to head ONCHIT, Dr. Blumenthal spoke of open source as offering a "bottom up" approach to IT reform, but added "A counterargument is that doing this amounts to letting the perfect be the enemy of the good."

In the article he also offered four priorities for proceeding:

  1. Financial incentives for purchasing Health IT, which is contained in the stimulus.
  2. Financial support for regional health information exchanges.
  3. Support for research aimed at improving technology's effectiveness.
  4. Regulations that guarantee data security, patient privacy, and certification of records that can support health system improvement.

What all this should tell people in the health IT sector, whether proprietary or open source, is that the game is afoot, and that negotiations on how open source and proprietary programs will interact in a new health IT infrastructure are underway.

The lobbying has begun in earnest.