Senate Committee Developing Legislation To Fix EHR Issues

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is developing legislation to address electronic health record-related issues identified by stakeholders during a series of six hearings this year, National Journal reports (Roubein, National Journal, 10/21).

Background

During one of the hearings in April, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that he and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the HELP committee, established a bipartisan working group to identify problems with EHRs that can be addressed through administrative or legislative action (iHealthBeat, 4/24).

The last hearing was held Oct. 1, and the working group is now setting priorities to include in the committee's "medical innovation bill." The bill is likely to be introduced this year.

Legislation Priorities

Alexander has said the committee has been working with the Obama administration "diligently for months to develop seven areas of agreement for legislation to actually achieve interoperability."

According to National Journal, those priorities include:

  • Bolstering standards;
  • Ensuring that the EHR certification system does what is intended to;
  • Improving access to EHRs for all members of a health care team;
  • Improving patient access to their medical records;
  • Limiting "physician documentation";
  • Preventing information blocking; and
  • Strengthening the security and privacy of EHRs.

Other Potential Priorities

Meanwhile, Murray has said that other priorities should include developing a system for providers to shop for and compare EHR systems.

Earlier this month, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced legislation to address such an issue (National Journal, 10/21). Specifically, the Transparent Ratings on Usability and Security to Transform Information Technology -- or TRUST IT -- Act of 2015, would require the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to develop a rating system for health IT products to measure their performance on:

  • Interoperability;
  • Security; and
  • Usability (iHealthBeat, 10/8).

Several TRUST IT Act provisions could be included in the HELP committee's bill, according to Alexander.

Alexander also has called on federal regulators to delay the start date of Stage 3 of the meaningful use program, but it is unclear whether the committee's legislation will include any changes to the program's timeline.

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments (iHealthBeat, 10/2). CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released the final rule for Stage 3 of the meaningful use program on Oct. 6 (iHealthBeat, 10/7).

Source: iHealthBeat, Thursday, October 22, 2015

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