Mirroring proposed changes to the Health IT Policy Committee's workgroups, the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT is reorganizing the structure of the Health IT Standards Committee's workgroups and the way the two federal advisory committees interact. 

Charged with making recommendations to ONC on standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria for the electronic exchange and use of health information, the HIT Standards Committee currently includes nine workgroups. However, Doug Fridsma, M.D., ONC's chief science officer and director of the Office of Science and Technology, has called for a reduction in the number of the committee's workgroups from nine to six: steering committee, vocabulary and information models, document and data structure, transport and security, services and APIs, and certification and testing.

Speaking at an April 24 HIT Standards Committee meeting in Washington, Fridsma said the workgroup downsizing and restructuring was necessary going forward to "continue to be productive and really start driving the conversation around the standards that we need to support the various policy objectives of ONC." He argued that the standards portfolio must remain "fresh" and that the committee needs to "take a look at our existing standards as we update them; that we fix things that we find that need to be sort of brought together." 

Fridsma said that "the only standards that you never update are the standards that you never use." He made the case that it is critical to support the successes of Meaningful Use Stage 1 and 2 and then "begin to look at how to expand our [standards] portfolio." 

Earlier this month, Karen DeSalvo, M.D., National Coordinator for Health IT, announced changes to the Health IT Policy Committee's "somewhat siloed" workgroup structure. In an April 8 meeting of the HIT Policy Committee, she called for revisions to the names and scope of the workgroups so that they are more "strategic and forward-thinking" with the restructuring slated to begin in May for a couple of the workgroups and the rest of the transition continuing this summer. 

In Thursday's Health IT Standards Committee meeting, DeSalvo announced that outgoing committee chair Jonathan Perlin M.D., president-elect of the American Hospital Association, will be replaced by Jacob Reider, M.D., ONC's deputy national coordinator. She said that under Reider's leadership the HIT Standards Committee will "mirror" the structure of the HIT Policy Committee where ONC is chair but the vice chair, John Halamka, M.D., CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, will retain his role running meetings.

"That will I hope keep the Standards Committee very tethered to the work of Policy [Committee] and ONC," said DeSalvo.

"This is an independent body and we want to have that independent feedback, so please don't misunderstand anything about it,” she added. “It's really a way that we can keep what has seemed to work very well in Policy Committee--a structure--and see if we can apply that to the Standards Committee."

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