One of the current discussions regarding healthcare information technology (HIT) policy is the proposed hand-off of the job of advising the Department of Health and Human Services on HIT policy from the American Health Information Community (AHIC) to a public/private partnership. The idea, proposed at the beginning of the year, seems to losing momentum as the year drags on, and not everyone at HHS is a fan.

At Wednesday's HIT hearing (see accompanying story), Carolyn Clancy, the director of the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHRQ), offered a number of perspectives on HIT, including that AHRQ has invested more than $250 million since 2004 on HIT. "However, hardware and software in every healthcare facility in America will not improve quality," she said.

"Without attention to workflow processes, HIT can actually speed up mistakes" in care, Clancy said, but added that "HIT can help clinicians with the evidence they need when they're making decisions." She also said that practices in rural areas "may need a lot of help" in getting into HIT.

Then Clancy addressed the AHIC transition. "My biggest concern is the loss of momentum" in transitioning from AHIC to a private-sector replacement," she said, part of which was the fact that any appointments might be "politicized."

Clancy said that "one concern is loss of momentum," but she added, "I've been enormously impressed with ... how many people are engaged and following this process."

— Mark McCarty, Washington Editor