Senate Hearing on PHR Privacy

Sen. Daniel Akaka chaired a Senate subcommittee hearing on electronic health records yesterday. The Government Accountability Office presented a report concluding that the Department of Health and Human Services needs to create a stronger business plan for incorporating privacy and security milestones into their health information technology expansion plans. Dr. Robert Kolodner who testified at the hearing for HHS explained that HHS will develop those milestones once it receives a baseline report on state privacy laws in the second quarter of 2007.

Mark Rothstein, a law professor who sits on an HHS advisory board, the National Committee for Vital and Health Statistics, warned that health information technology is launching without adequate privacy and security standards built in. He complained that HHS Secretary Leavitt is not implementing the NCVHS privacy and security recommendations made in a June 22, 2006, NCVHS letter to the Secretary. Sen. Akaka appears interested in a legislative remedy, such as expanding the HIPAA Privacy and Security provisions.

Senators George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) also participated in the hearing. They announced their plan to reintroduce a bill that would require Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan carrier to offer personal health records to their members.