AHIMA Urges Congress to Maintain Health IT Initiatives Funding in 21st Century Cures Act

AHIMA has recently taken action to help ensure Congress will continue to fund critical health IT initiatives that were advanced last year with the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act. The US House of Representatives’ and Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) are currently drafting an appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018 (FY2018), and AHIMA is concerned that inadequate funding for it could harm AHIMA’s key priorities.

Late last year, the 21st Century Cures Act was passed by Congress with overwhelming majorities. However, funding for the legislation is tied to appropriation bills currently being drafted. Complicating matters is the fact that President Trump has proposed a budget that includes deep cuts to federal agencies, including the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—an agency that has a different secretary than when the law was passed.

“Overall, AHIMA is concerned that the President’s current proposed FY18 budget request will not provide ONC with the sufficient funding to meet the above obligations set forth by Congress,” wrote AHIMA in letters to the House and Senate (Labor-HHS) appropriations subcommittees. “We understand that Congress faces difficult choices in funding a variety of priorities with limited resources. However, failure to adequately fund ONC will undermine a major tenet of the Cures Act itself—“the delivery of new drugs and devices to the right patient at the right time by ensuring electronic health record systems are interoperable for seamless patient care and . . . [to] fully realize the benefits of a learning health care system.”

AHIMA’s letters outline the ways in which the priorities of the 21st Century Cures Act align with AHIMA’s work and alliances with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

  • AHIMA serves as the ANSI-appointed Secretariat to the ISO/Technical Committee 215 on Health Informatics (ISO/TC215), and as Administrator of the United States Technical Advisory Group (US TAG), the delegation representing the US to ISO/TC215. These groups work to promote interoperability in electronic health records (EHRs), personal health records, and medical devices. ONC acts as a convener for the Health IT Advisory Committee to recommend standards and implementation specifications, which is required under the Cures Act.
  • AHIMA’s work on information governance (IG), among other things, helps promote interoperability through a voluntary trusted exchange framework, which is part of the interoperability practices advanced by the Cures Act.
  • AHIMA and health information management professionals work to maintain HIPAA regulations while making it easier for patients to access their own medical records. Many healthcare organizations have struggled to make a sufficient volume of patient records available, which is something AHIMA has worked on with the support of ONC.

 

Click here to read the Senate letter in the BoK, and here to read the letter to members of the House.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at the Journal of AHIMA.

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