Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today announced that the Senate health committee has unanimously passed bipartisan legislation that will improve health information technology. The Improving Health Information Technology Act (S. 2511) is the product of a bipartisan, full committee health information technology working group announced by Alexander and Murray in April—as well as a series of six bipartisan hearings in the committee.
The committee released a discussion draft of the legislation on January 20 which was open for comment until January 29. The final version of this legislation was released on February 7 and introduced in the Senate on February 8.
“Our goal is to make our country’s electronic health record system something that helps patients rather than something that doctors and hospitals dread so much that patients are not helped. We have worked for months – with input from those who actually use the system – to help improve health information technology and I’m glad to see this legislation move forward as part of a successful first meeting on our committee’s bipartisan biomedical innovation agenda,” said Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
The Improving Health Information Technology Act (S. 2511) Summary
Key focus areas of the legislation include:
1) Assisting Doctors and Hospitals in Improving Quality of Care for Patients
– Reduces documentation burdens by convening public and private stakeholders to develop goals, a strategy, and recommendations to minimize the documentation burden on providers while maintaining quality.
– Allows and encourages health professionals to practice at the top of their license, allowing non-physician members of the care team to document on behalf of physicians.
– Encourages the certification of health information technology (HIT) for specialty providers and sites of service, like pediatric care, where more specialized technology is needed.
2) Transparent Ratings on Usability and Security to Transform Information Technology (TRUST IT)
– Establishes an unbiased rating system for HIT products to help providers better choose HIT products.
– Allows HIT users to share feedback on the user experience of specific HIT products related to security, usability, and interoperability, among other concerns
3) Information Blocking
– Gives the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General the authority to investigate and establish deterrents to information blocking practices that interfere with appropriate sharing of electronic health information
– Convenes existing data sharing networks to develop a voluntary model framework and common agreement for the secure exchange of health information across existing networks to help foster bridging between networks
– Creates a digital provider directory to both facilitate exchange and allow users to verify the correct recipient
– Requires that HHS give deference to standards developed in the private sector.
5) Leveraging Health Information Technology to Improve Patient Care
– Requires that certified HIT exchange data with registries if registries are certified to use standards endorsed by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC).
– Includes vendors in Patient Safety Organizations to allow for improvements in the safety and effectiveness of HIT.
6) Empowering Patients and Improving Patient Access to Their Electronic Health Information
– Supports the certification and development of patient-centered health record technology so that patients can access their health information through secure and user-friendly software that may update automatically.
– Encourages the use of Health Information Exchanges to promote patient access by educating providers and clarifying misunderstandings.
– Requires HHS to clarify situations where it is permissible for providers to share patient information by providing best practices and common cases where sharing is allowed
7) GAO Study on Patient Matching
– Directs the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study to review methods for securely matching patient records to the correct patient.