Senate Committee Passes Health IT Bill Focused on Interoperability and EHR Usability

Although it has thus far only passed a committee vote, the “Improving Health Information Technology Act” may be a sign of things to come, from Congress at least, as the industry grapples with the dissolution of the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program.

The bill, which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee on January 20, takes aim at interoperability in electronic health records (EHRs) and information blocking, and asks the Government Accountability Office to review methods to improve patient identity matching.

HELP committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) noted during the hearing that he thought federal officials should have delayed Stage 3 of the meaningful use program for a year. “We could have used that time to work with physicians to reduce unnecessary documentation. “The physicians would have appreciated that and would begin to see EHRs as more of an aid than something they dread,” according to the publication Healthcare Informatics.

Other provisions contained in the bill include:

  • A call for stakeholders to discuss ways to reduce physician documentation, including a move to allow other care team members to document in the record when possible.
  • The creation of a EHR rating system, possibly measured in stars.
  • Giving the HHS Inspector General the task of investigating and establishing deterrents to information blocking practices that interfere with appropriate sharing of electronic health information.
  • Require that HHS defers to private sector to develop interoperability standards.
  • Require that certified HIT should exchange data with registries if registries are certified to use standards endorsed by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC).

Click here to read the bill in full.

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