ONC’s Chief Privacy Officer Tenders Resignation

Joy Pritts, the top privacy officer in the US Department of Health and Human Services, will leave her position on July 12, according to officials at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, announced Pritts’ resignation on Thursday, June 12 in a letter to ONC staff members. Pritts was ONC’s first chief privacy officer, and took on the role in February 2010 following the enactment of the HITECH provisions of ARRA, the economic stimulus legislation that created ONC.

According to DeSalvo’s letter, Pritts “has served not only as ONC’s point person on privacy and security, but, as a practical matter, has served as a key advisor to the Secretary and across the federal government on these crucial issues.”

Additionally, under Pritts, “ONC has had a significant impact on improving the privacy of health information and patients’ rights to their information. As you know, she helped in the development of regulations that give patients direct access to their lab test results,” DeSalvo wrote.

During a presentation at the 2012 AHIMA Convention and Exhibit, Pritts told the audience that ONC is on a critical mission to create a culture where privacy and security are understood and valued—and that getting to that point would not be “a small change.” This was a point that resonated with many HIM professionals given their key role in ensuring the privacy and security of patient health records.

“You can do a good job treating patients, but they also want you to do a good job handling patient information,” Pritts said during the convention speech.

Prior to joining ONC, Pritts was on the faculty at Georgetown University where she held a joint appointment as a Senior Scholar with the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and as a Research Associate Professor with the Health Policy Institute.

She has also written extensively on topics including the HIPAA Privacy Rule, federal alcohol and substance abuse confidentiality laws, and the confidentiality of health information in research, according to ONC’s website.

DeSalvo stated that she will be working with Pritts to identify an acting chief privacy officer, as well as a permanent replacement, to ensure a smooth transition.

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