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Archive for May, 2009

Rethinking Federal Privacy Policies

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ITIF just released a report (download PDF) that looks at the history of the federal government policy on “cookies”—small data files stored on a user’s computer. We specifically look at the strict limitations put on the use of persistent cookies and how this has affected the development of government websites. The report surveys the 10 most popular government and non-government websites and their privacy policies. We also look at the growing importance of non-government websites to access government data, such as used to access campaign finance data, rather than the government website In the report, we call for a much more flexible privacy framework for government websites, one that allows the use cookies (and other similar technology like flash cookies and DOM storage objects). The goal should be to protect privacy, but not at the expense of other equally importantant goals for e-government like usability, transparency and accessibility.

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Industry Should Help Certify Online Health Records

recent article in The Washington Post has called into question the role of the private sector in setting standards for electronic health record (EHR) systems. Specifically, the article questions the appropriateness of allowing a group that originally pushed for stimulus funds to now have an oversight role in how those funds are spent.

This thinking is misguided. While government should continue to set the broad principles in defining “meaningful use” of EHR systems, it should also welcome the opportunity to partner with the private sector in defining certification requirements.

At issue are the efforts of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), an association of healthcare technology vendors and medical providers, to convince the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to require that EHR systems receiving stimulus funds be certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT).

As documented by the Post, CCHIT includes “several board members that work for technology vendors,” and the current president is a former HIMSS executive.

HIMSS also helped educate Congress on the benefits of using stimulus funds for health IT, which resulted in the final stimulus legislation including billions for EHR systems

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