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White House Calls For Healthcare IT Task Force

The Office of Management and Budget is calling for a coordinated effort to implement goals of the HITECH Act across various government agencies.

The Obama administration has called for a government-wide task force to coordinate efforts to implement its plans for a healthcare IT system.

An Office of Management and Budget memo proposes the development of a Health Information Technology (HIT) Task Force to "facilitate implementation of the President's HIT agenda through better coordination among Federal agencies involved."

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Director Office of Management and Budget Peter R. Orszag issued the memo, which was addressed to the following officials: Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael J. Astrue and Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry.

Executing White House plans to ramp up the use of IT in the healthcare industry has been hampered by "a mix of ad hoc councils and advisory groups" tasked with leading the effort, according to the memo.

A new task force -- which would be chaired by the National Coordinator for HIT-- should provide a more unified front to implement improvements the White House is calling for in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

OMB Health Program Associate Director, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra and CTO Aneesh Chopra, will be vice-chairs of the group.

The memo asks each of the officials who received the memo to choose a senior policy official from his or her respective group to participate in the task force. Once established, the HIT Task Force is expected to meet monthly or bi-weekly, and should define several working groups at its first meeting to address a variety of health IT issues.

The first tasks to be addressed should focus on areas where coordination among the agencies is essential to policy implementation, according to the memo.

Specifically, high-priority issues include coordinating and supporting achievement of the Administration's vision for HIT, especially as laid out by the HITECH ACT. The group also should provide formal Federal input into the two statutory Federal advisory committees -- the HIT Policy and Standards Committees.

Identifying key Federal government HIT priorities and how best to achieve these priorities should also be one of the first matters addressed, according to the memo.

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