A new federal advisory committee mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act to advance an interoperable health information technology infrastructure is taking shape and will conduct its first meeting this winter, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

The HIT Advisory Committee created by Congress, charged with making interoperability a priority and recommending standards, implementation specifications and certification criteria to ONC, replaces both the HIT Policy and Standards committees.

“The new HITAC is responsible for looking not only at policy issues around health information technology but also at standards related issues,” said Elise Sweeney Anthony, director of ONC’s Office of Policy, during a public meeting on Friday. “We are in the process of standing up that committee, and our goal is to move that committee forward this upcoming winter.”

The Government Accountability Office has appointed 15 members to the HIT Advisory Committee. The GAO’s appointees will serve for one-, two-, or three-year terms—all of whom may be reappointed for subsequent three-year terms.

Also See: GAO appoints 15 members to new Health IT Advisory Committee

Members of the HITAC are meant to reflect a plethora of stakeholders including providers, ancillary healthcare workers, consumers, purchasers, health plans, technology vendors, researchers, relevant federal agencies, as well as individuals with technical expertise on healthcare quality, privacy, security, electronic exchange and use of health information.

“Our goal is to start up the HITAC in winter, so I think we’re getting close,” added Sweeney Anthony. “There are a number of administrative components that we have to do to make sure that it is set up and compliant with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. All of that is underway. But it’s definitely a high priority for us. We look forward to the feedback that they’re going to provide.”

In addition to the GAO’s appointments, the Cures Act specifies that 11 members of the new committee are to be appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, as well as the speaker and minority leader of the House of Representatives.

Specifically, HHS is seeking applications for two members of the HITAC, one of whom will represent the agency and the other will be appointed to serve as a public health official representative.

Asked what federal agencies will participate in HITAC, Sweeney Anthony said ONC is open to “working with our federal partners.” She noted that, in the past agencies, involved with federal advisory committees have included the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, all of which tend to “work a lot in the health information technology community.”

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