Senate Committee Pursues Legislative Proposals to Improve Health IT
June 11, 2015 10:58 AM
The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss problems with a federal program meant to encourage health care providers to adopt electronic health records. The Committee met in what was the first in a series of hearings to address the topic of improving health IT.
HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said the Committee hopes to identify “five of six” proposals improving the adoption of electronic health records to include in a medical innovations bill later this year.
“Today’s hearing sets the table for an important series of hearings the committee will hold over the summer focused on how we can improve electronic health records for doctors and their patients,” said Alexander. “Our goal, through the hearings and our committee’s bipartisan working group, will be to identify the five or six steps we can take to improve electronic health records—technology that has great promise, but has, through bad policy and bad incentives, run badly off track.”
Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) also stated her determination to strengthening the exchange of health IT information. She emphasized the importance of both accessibility and security.
“If we want to continue improving the quality and value of health care patients and families receive, we absolutely need to strengthen our nation’s health IT infrastructure,” said Murray. “I’m pleased that the Committee shares this bipartisan priority and I look forward to working together on ways to empower patients and providers with more effective, efficient electronic health records.”
As the Senate develops this legislation, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) will make recommendations to Congress mirroring its stated legislative priorities and carefully monitor any developments.
In its 2015 Legislative Blueprint, NAHC recommends that Congress work with the Obama administration to provide financial incentives to HHAs to encourage the adoption and use of electronic health records by home care and hospice providers. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) should lend assistance to all health care sectors to support the transition to interoperable EHRs across the continuum of care. Health IT support to currently non-incentivized providers in post-acute care settings should include monetary incentives such as small business loans, tax incentives, grants from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, information exchange partnerships with hospitals, physician practices and accountable care organizations (ACOs), grants for the development and use of health IT standards for the Home Health Plan of Care and Care Transition data standards. ONC should also support these important health IT standards in the development voluntary EHR certification guidelines – such as the 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria - for EHR products homogenous to home health care and hospice. Lastly, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Rural Health Care Program should ensure that all health care providers, including HHAs and hospices, have access to appropriate bandwidth so that they can take full advantage of advances in health IT for the delivery of care to homebound patients.