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12/3/2009
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U.S. Health IT Office Reorganizes

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has reorganized into groups including a Chief Privacy Officer.

The U.S. federal government office which handles the nationwide transition to electronic medical records reorganized into several groups, including creating a Chief Privacy Officer.

The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's new organizational structure is designed to more effectively meet the mission outlined by the U.S. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The changes were published in the Federal Register, effective Dec. 1.

The office is now composed of five smaller offices with direct reporting capability to National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David Blumenthal, who reports to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who reports to President Barack Obama.

The new groups are the Office of Economic Modeling and Analysis; the Office of the Chief Scientist; the Office of the Deputy National Coordinator for Programs & Policy; the Office of the Deputy National Coordinator for Operations, and the Office of the Chief Privacy Officer.

The Office of the Chief Privacy Officer, appointed by the Sebelius, will advise on privacy, security, and data stewardship of health information, coordinating with privacy officers in other federal agencies, state and regional agencies, and foreign countries.

The Office of Economic Modeling and Analysis studies the economic effects of investing in health IT, and provides policy analysis. The Office of Chief Scientist has a wide range of responsibilities, including applying research methodologies to perform evaluations of health IT grant programs, supporting innovation in health IT, leading research activities mandated by ARRA, and promoting application of health IT to support basic and clinical research.

The Office of Chief Scientist also shares information on health IT with international audiences, collaborates with other agencies and departments, and develops education programs.

The Office of the Deputy National Coordinator for Programs and Policy implements and oversees grant programs that advance the nation toward universal meaningful use of health IT, develops and implements standards for national health information exchange, and maintains the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan.

And the Office of the Deputy National Coordinator for Operations is responsible for budget, contracts, grants management, and other operational needs of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) portion of ARRA sets, signed into law by Obama in February, sets aside $19 billion for healthcare providers to upgrade their IT infrastructure, provided that the the healthcare providers put the IT to "meaningful use." Blumenthal expects to put out a preliminary definition of the phrase this month. The office set aside $80 million in grants for workforce training programs Monday.

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