APA Practice comments on health information technology rule

The Practice Directorate has responded to a draft proposal to establish regional centers that would help health care providers adopt and use health information technology

by Legal and Regulatory Affairs Staff

July 28, 2009 — Last month, the American Psychological Association (APA) Practice Directorate sent a comment letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding a draft proposal to establish regional centers intended to assist health care providers in adopting and using health information technology. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, passed by Congress in February 2009, requires the establishment of such regional centers.

The letter from APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, is a recent example of the Practice Directorate's ongoing advocacy to ensure appropriate passage and implementation of federal health information technology (HIT) legislation, with a particular focus on records privacy and security.

Among its main points, the letter emphasizes that regional centers must have expertise in mental, behavioral and substance abuse treatment and encourages the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT to prioritize outreach to psychologists in implementing the regional center program. Further, noting APA's long history of advocating for strong patient privacy and security protections in federal laws, Dr. Nordal encouraged HHS to include the issue of privacy among its proposed goals for regional centers. APA believes that for electronic health records to be accepted and widely used, consumers and practitioners must have confidence that patient privacy will be protected in these records.

The HITECH Act builds on the federal government's continuing efforts to encourage the development of a national interoperable, electronic health records network to facilitate providing improved patient care at lower cost. The executive branch has established a goal of developing and implementing this network by 2014.

The core portion of the HITECH Act contains provisions to ensure records privacy and security as HIT develops.

During the coming year, we expect numerous proposed rules to result from this law. The rules will be made available for public comment.

The Practice Directorate will continue to evaluate and provide input on proposed rules of interest to practicing psychologists.