Will Obama health IT committee give open source a chance?

Proprietary health IT has plenty of representatives here, but open source has several who might be termed persuadable. The future of open source in health IT is still within the power of the President to direct and control.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

Where you stand depends on where you sit.

So where do members of the General Accounting Office's  Health Information Technology (HIT) Committee, described by GeekDoctor John Halamka as the new "Board of Directors" for Healthcare IT stand on open source?

(To the right, the headquarters of Epic Systems in Verona, Wisconsin, from G3 Technologies.)

Let's start with the "no" votes on the 13-member panel:

  1. Judith Faulkner, founder and CEO of Epic Systems. This is the proprietary vendor whose handling of Kaiser's EMR program was so problematic. Epic is already advertising on its Web site for stimulus contracts.
  2. Paul Tang, CMIO of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. They're an Epic customer. Its PAMFOnline is based on Epic's MyChart.
  3. Charles Kennedy, vice president of Wellpoint. Remember that Ingenix database that was creating phony rates to cut reimbursement rates? Wellpoint is an Ingenix customer, and the AMA recently put them on the receiving end of legal papers over it.
  4. Marc Probst, CIO of Intermountain Healthcare. They committed to GE Healthcare's Centricity in 2005. Centricity is based on Microsoft Windows.
  5. Dr. Arthur Davidson, director of public health informatics at Denver Public Health. Davidson, like Kennedy and Tang, are on the board of the National eHealth InitiativeNational eHealth Collaborative, created under the Bush Administration under the name AHIC Successor.
  6. Neil Calman, who heads the Institute for Family Health in New York, is also an Epic customer.

Then let's go to the maybes, those whose backgrounds have little to do with software design and may go either way.

  1. Scott White, a technology director at Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which covers the northeast U.S.
  2. LaTanya Sweeney, who runs the Data Privacy Lab at Carnegie-Mellon and is also a visiting scholar at Harvard. The center's Web page makes no mention of either proprietary or open source solutions.
  3. David Lansky, CEO of the Pacific Business Group on Health, which seeks great analysis of medical data with an eye to reducing costs. I see him as a counterweight to Sweeney.
  4. Connie Delaney, dean of the University of Minnesota school of nursing, has written extensively on standards for nursing informatics.

Finally, those with reasons to be sympathetic to open source.

  1. Adam Clark, director of health policy at the Lance Armstrong Foundation. At the National Cancer Institute he helped develop the Clinical Proteomic Technology Assessment for Cancer, which is compatible with the NCI's open source caBIG project.
  2. Christine Bechtel, listed as being with the National Partnership for Women and Families, but had come from the eHealth Initiative, where she was vice president of public policy. The eHealth Initiative showed some sympathy to open source at its December conference.
  3. David Bates, of Brigham & Womens Hospital in Boston, has worked on using data to improve care and help patients evaluate care. He might be seen as the eyes and ears of ONCHIT David Blumenthal.

None of these can be called skeptics regarding health IT and its result buzzwords, like comparative effectiveness and evidence-based care. They are all advocates.

Just to add to the mix, both Congressional leaders and the Secretary of HHS have the power to appoint committee members. The President can also add to the list in order to represent federal agencies. (Someone from the VA, please.)

Three of the Congressional representatives were named yesterday, with that of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell still pending. You also have those three HHS reps to come, and an unknown number of Presidential appointments.

The Congressional appointees:

  1. CEO Paul Egerman of eSription, a division of Nuance. Nuance recently acquired IBM's speech recognition technology. Egerman is an appointee of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
  2. Gayle Harrell, a member of the Florida House who recently railed against the stimulus bill's health IT provisions. She is an appointtee of House Minority Leader John Boehner.  She'll make meetings lively.
  3. Frank Nemec, a Nevada gastroenterologist who expressed himself as a skeptic of the Clinton Health Plan in 1994, appointed by Senate Majority Harry Reid.

Assuming the Congressional representatives represent their sponsors, a lot depends on whom incoming HHS Secretary Sibelius appoints, and the dynamics which develop within the group.

Proprietary health IT has plenty of representatives here, but open source has several who might be termed persuadable. The future of open source in health IT is still within the power of the President to direct and control.

Does he care about it?

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