Springtime is Regulation Time

Blumenthal outlines HITECH rules timeline
Springtime is Regulation Time
The three major regulations to support the electronic health records incentive program will be finalized by the end of spring, according to the team leader for the federal government's HITECH Act implementation effort.

"We hope to do that by the end of the spring so we can really launch this new era," said David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology within the Department of Health and Human Services.

The timeline for finishing the proposed rules, all of which address security, is tight because the incentive program for hospitals begins Oct. 1 and the program for physicians begins Jan. 1, 2011.

Security report

Blumenthal also told a keynote audience at the HIMSS Conference in Atlanta March 3 that his office will prepare a new report on security issues this year.

"We'll have a report from our privacy and security workgroup about dealing with all the tough questions that vex this field," he said. He acknowledged that it's a tricky task to "balance security and access to electronic health information."

The pending rules

The proposed regulations Blumenthal expects to finalize by the end of spring are:

  • A rule defining how to demonstrate "meaningful use" of EHRs to qualify for federal EHR incentives under the HITECH Act. (To read a story about the rule, click here.)

  • A rule setting standards for certified EHR software that qualifies for the incentive program. (To read a story about the rule, click here.)

  • A rule unveiled March 3 that creates the EHR certification program. (To read a story about the rule, click here.)

Blumenthal acknowledged that his small staff is struggling to keep up with the pace of finishing regulations and administering various grant programs. One of the biggest tasks, he said, is reviewing all of the comments received on the proposed rules and then fine-tuning the provisions.

"Ours is not a big office. We can still fit in a school bus," he noted. "We have 55 employees but we are growing."

About the Author

Howard Anderson

Howard Anderson

Former News Editor, ISMG

Anderson was news editor of Information Security Media Group and founding editor of HealthcareInfoSecurity and DataBreachToday. He has more than 40 years of journalism experience, with a focus on healthcare information technology issues. Before launching HealthcareInfoSecurity, he served as founding editor of Health Data Management magazine, where he worked for 17 years, and he served in leadership roles at several other healthcare magazines and newspapers.

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