Government Health IT reports that Vish Sankaran, director of the Federal Health Architecture (FHA) program and one of ExecutiveBiz’s Top 10 Health IT Game Changers in 2009, will leave the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).
As program director of federal health architecture at the Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Mr. Sankaran worked to implement CONNECT software, an open-source platform for health IT. The program’s goal was connecting the health networks of 25 different federal agencies to form a working National Health Information Network (NHIN). ONC’s eventual goal is to expand the program to include state Medicare networks and possibly private hospitals.
Sankaran also advocated for more stringent security requirements in HIPAA, arguing that a “FISMA-lite” or “HIPAA-plus” program is necessary for health IT in order to ensure information security and avoid restricting its implementation.
“FHA has matured and has a good structure,” Sankaran told Government Health IT. “The agencies have come together, and I feel my role has been its establishment and not in day-to-day operations.” He declined to offer details about his reason for departure, but he said he hoped to continue his involvement “in the national effort to make health and human services a transformative agent for our society” in some capacity. However, he did say in an e-mail that his departure came at a time that FHA was “reshaping itself.”
Mr. Sankaran described FHA’s accomplishments as a program, one of which was “bringing people together in an ecosystem where the government’s role is to enable collaboration and then to move on and let industry drive it forward.” FHA’s new leadership must decide the roles and responsibilities for FHA, he said, including whether FHA will expand its work beyond the technical rigors of EHR adoption and HIN creation into the realm of health reform.
“I feel that FHA should play a role in not just building solutions but looking for solutions that are going to control the cost and improve the quality of service to the citizen,” Sankaran commented. “Health information exchange is one such product, but HIE alone is not going to really make a difference on the bottom line.”