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White House announces plan for review of all government IT projects

By Bob Brewin // February 24, 2010

The White House plans "relentless oversight" of the entire federal information technology portfolio, which will include a bottom-up review of all projects, Vivek Kundra, federal chief information officer, said at a news briefing on Wednesday.

The Obama administration plans to crack down on IT projects that do not work and to focus on the execution of those that are performing as designed, Kundra said. He provided few specifics about the review but said the federal government will no longer "put good money after bad" in pursuing troubled projects such as the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, which the department canceled earlier in February after investing 12 years and $1 billion.

A Veterans Affairs Department program to track progress and improve management of IT projects is an example of how the administration plans to monitor the federal IT portfolio, Kundra said. VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker launched the Program Management Accountability System in June 2009, which required program managers in charge of problematic IT projects to deliver systems and applications incrementally, rather than all at once, and to stick to a strict schedule of finishing portions of the project or face being replaced.

Kundra also said the Office of...

OMB, HHS create new health IT task force

February 24, 2010

The Health and Human Services Department wants to create a new interagency task force to better coordinate and improve how the government implements health information technology. In a memo to six agencies, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag write that this new task force would replace the existing health IT interagency group because it is "not a good fit for the new [health IT] environment."

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Army studying use of virtual reality to treat post-traumatic stress

By Bob Brewin // February 22, 2010

Soldiers suffering from PTSD recreate their battle experiences in a virtual world as part of their therapy at the Madigan Army Medical Center.VRPSYCH Lab, Institute for Creative Technologies

Talk to a combat veteran and you may hear tales of bad food, complaints about gear that worked poorly or not at all, and possibly gripes about poor leadership.

But many combat veterans rarely talk about the truly searing experiences of war, and that is what frequently leads to post-traumatic stress disorder, said Dr. Greg Reger, an Army psychologist with the Defense Department's National Center for Telehealth and Technology at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash.

Instead of talking about their combat experiences, Reger said, soldiers tend to repeatedly replay an incident in heir heads, such as the explosion of an improvised explosive device that killed a friend. If a soldier does talk about his or her experience, it is with little emotion, he added.

Faced with a PTSD rate as high as 35 percent among veterans of the Iraq war, the Army has instigated a four-year study at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma to track the results of using virtual reality to treat the disorder. The PTSD...

EPA Web site paving the way to transparency

By Aliya Sternstein // February 19, 2010

As more agencies deploy online score cards that publicly chart the progress of specific missions, the Environmental Protection Agency's new Web site for tracking rulemaking could be a model, some government transparency activists say.

EPA launched its site, the Rulemaking Gateway, on Thursday to inform the public of the status of high-priority regulatory actions, such as proposals to control greenhouse gas emissions in heavy-duty vehicles and revise vehicle fuel economy labels.

The White House's fiscal 2011 budget for federal information technology calls on agencies to continue launching and expanding such public tracking devices, often called dashboards. The administration recently unveiled a dashboard to track compliance with a December 2009 open government directive and a site that follows the movement of regulations agencies have submitted to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for peer review. Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients said on Thursday a performance dashboard that measures whether agencies are meeting goals will be up by the summer.

EPA has committed to releasing rulemaking plans earlier than in the past. As soon as an agency regulatory policy officer determines it is appropriate to start developing a rule, information will be posted on the gateway, officials said. A...

Panel asks HHS to be flexible with electronic health records rules

By Bob Brewin // February 17, 2010

An advisory committee to the Health and Human Services Department recommended on Wednesday that clinicians and hospitals be given some flexibility in meeting standards this year for deploying electronic health records.

Health care providers must demonstrate their digital medical records for patients have so-called meaningful use if they want to receive incentives that can total as much as $40,000. But a panel of the Health Information Technology Policy Committee, which advises HHS on e-health records, recommended doctors and hospitals be granted some leeway in meeting the proposed standards.

In a letter to Dr. David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health information technology at HHS, the chairmen of the panel, named the meaningful use workgroup, wrote, "It is important to achieve some flexibility in the 'all-or-nothing approach' to earning meaningful use incentives."

The workgroup is chaired by Paul Tang, chief medical information officer at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation at Stanford University, and George Hripcsak, chairman of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Columbia University.

They suggested that clinicians and hospitals be allowed to defer up to six of the 25 meaningful use standards that HHS defined this year. This includes any three out of four proposed standards for using...