Friday, December 18, 2009

Transparency at the ONC

I am still waiting for a reasonable explanation as to why the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has scheduled closed-door sessions of federal policy advisory work groups. So far one entire meeting and half of another have been closed to the public and the transcripts from those meetings are yet to be released. There has also been no comment or explanation from the ONC as to the rationale for these meetings to be held in closed session.

The national health information network (NHIN) work group of the HIT Policy Committee met in public session from 10 a.m. until about 12:50 p.m. ET on December 15, 2009. Then they met the rest of the day in closed session. The privacy and security work group of the HIT Policy Committee met December 8, 2009 in closed session for the entire meeting and then gave a brief report to the December 15 HIT Policy Meeting.

The HIT Policy Committee must legally operate under the Federal Advisory Committee Act which, generally, requires open meetings, with certain specific exceptions. Also, the Obama administration has issued a directive requiring all executive branch agencies to foster openness and transparency at the federal level of government.

With the emphasis on openness and transparency by this administration, I hope that we will soon see a response from the ONC regarding these closed meetings. With billions of dollars of stimulus funds on the line, and major stakeholders represented on these committees and work groups, it is imperative to avoid even a whiff of impropriety. Perhaps we will get an answer on the ONC blog which would help in "marking the road ahead."

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