When I was a kid, I loved the “Ramona” children’s book series by Beverly Cleary. I enjoyed them so much that I was inspired to write my first, and very rare, fan letter. I told Ms. Cleary how much I liked her books and suggested she write a book about my cat. I was thrilled to get a letter from her in return. She thanked me for writing and for enjoying her books and was kind enough to mention my cat by name (though I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the first kid to pitch that story idea to her). Even though, she didn’t take my suggestion, it felt great to send an idea to someone and to get a response back.
I’ve also had the experience of sharing a thought and never receiving any feedback. I always wonder if my idea ever made it to the intended recipient. I suppose a letter can get lost in the mail, but an email getting caught up in a SPAM filter is a not unusual. I always wonder if my suggestion made it to the person, or if they thought it was silly, or if they thought it was great but were just too busy to respond. I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences, especially in a field as technical and regulated as health IT, where comments on proposed regulations are often solicited.
With the new website Planning Room, The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, in partnership with Cornell University, is using a new model for gathering and evaluating public comments. Planning Room is dedicated to public discussion of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan. It is a sister site of Regulation Room, which was designed and operated by the Cornell eRulemaking Initiative and hosted by the Legal Information Institute. The goal of these sites is to make the process of public commenting and rule making more transparent and interactive.
Regulation Room is a pilot project between Cornell and the U.S. Department of Transportation. According to its website, Regulation Room was created to “provide guidance on design, technological, and human intervention strategies, grounded in theory and tested in practice, for effective Rulemaking 2.0 systems.” In other words, to use Web 2.0 technology to increase public participation in government rule making in the hopes of creating more effective and applicable rules and regulations.
ONC is now testing the waters of eRulemaking with Planning Room. The agency’s first discussion via Planning Room is now open to the public. The topic is consumer eHealth, and the ONC is asking patients, providers, IT developers, insurance companies and anyone else with an interest to participate.
When you visit Planning Room, you’ll see specific topics related to consumer eHealth such as patient-generated health data and enabling information access. If you click on one of those links, take patient-generated data as an example, you are directed to a landing page on patient-generated data. There the topic is broken into subtopics, such as the benefits, the challenges and the role of government. Users can comment on a subtopic by posting a comment and can also view others’ comments. There are Planning Room moderators who interact with users to ask follow-up questions, to clarify answers and to provide more information.
Both Planning Room and Regulation Room are expected to evolve as needed to better gather data and meet users’ needs. If you have something to say about consumer eHealth, share your comments the Web 2.o way with the ONC in the Planning Room. The public comment period ends May 9, 2013.
Jennifer Thew, RN, MSJ
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