Senate Passes the Health Information Technology Act

The Senate Healthcare Committee passed the Improving Health Information Technology Act (S. 2511) with a unanimous vote last week. The bill, a companion to the 21st Century Cures Act passed last year by the House of Representatives, was introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn). It focuses on improving healthcare information technology by updating the use, practices, and regulations of electronic health records.

“If we want to continue building a healthcare system that works for patients and families and puts their needs first, strengthening our nation’s health IT infrastructure must be a top priority.” – Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington

 

MedCityNews has a solid analysis of the passage of the committee’s passage of the bill with a unanimous and bipartisan 22-0 vote. A key supporter is Democratic Senator Patty Murray who says EHR’s can make “an incredible, even life-saving difference in patient treatment and health” if legislation supports technology that improves clinical outcomes and provides incentives for quality care. Specifically the Improving Health IT Act “will offer new tools to help move the market for health IT towards more usable products that can easily share information when a provider needs it and encourage better patient access to their own health records so they can be more empowered to make informed healthcare decisions with their doctors.”

What the bill proposes to do:

  • Further transitions the nation’s healthcare system towards value-based payments.

  • Puts a star rating system into effect based on security, usability, and interoperability of an EMR.

  • Gives Health and Human Services (HHS) the authority to decertify products that don’t improve beyond a one-star rating.

  • Gives HHS the authority to investigate and establish deterrents on practices that interfere with the appropriate sharing of electronic health information.

  • Encourages HHS to promote policies that better help patients understand their rights and access their records.

  • Orders the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to encourage health information exchange in a “single, longitudinal format that is easy to understand, secure, and may update such information automatically.”

What it means for independent physicians and their practices:

  • If the bill becomes a law, it will continue the sweeping reforms of value-based care replacing the current service-based model.

  • Bipartisan support for the bill in committee is a good sign that there is Congressional buy-in to provide policy-based incentives to improve EHR technology’s shortcomings.

  • The Improving Health IT Act, should it pass, could be a key driver of change in the electronic health record industry. It focuses on patient access to the health record and accountability for technology vendors to provide high quality and interoperable access to data.

  • The ONC’s mandate under the act supports a longitudinal view of the patient record, where technology systems enable health information exchange that covers the spectrum of care across multiple interactions with providers.