House Panel Holds Hearing on Health IT Regulation, Innovation

June 25, 2014 in News

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a roundtable hearing on balancing health IT innovation and regulation, The Hill reports.  

According to The Hill, the meeting was the committee’s second roundtable hearing on the issues, and the panel intends to publish reports on developing legislation to promote health care innovation in the industry.

However, Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said that any legislation resulting from the roundtable discussions likely would not be proposed until next year (Al-Faruque, The Hill, 6/24).

Comments on Interoperability

During the hearing, stakeholders urged the federal government to clarify its regulation of the health care industry and to help facilitate innovation and interoperability.

For example, Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush said that there is “no business incentive for interoperability.” Citing Congress’ recent delay of the ICD-10 transition deadline, Bush said the government has cultivated “a culture of wanton and random regulations.”

He urged lawmakers to be “conservative in what they decide to do” and not “capricious.”

Jeff Shuren, director of FDA’s device center, in response said the agency is trying to “engage in smart regulation, [which] means knowing when to regulate and how to regulate.” He added that FDA is “trying to get out of the way” of stakeholders, citing the agency’s decision to “deregulate scores of technologies” from health care applications to medical device data systems.

He also noted that FDA could help boost interoperability in the industry. He added, “The linchpin is accurate information. … (We) need accuracy, reliability (and) meaningful information” (Tahir, Modern Healthcare, 6/24).

Comments on Data Sharing

During the hearing, stakeholders told lawmakers that improving data sharing could help convert the health care system from one that uses “evidence-based practice” to one that relies on “practice-based evidence.”

Specifically, experts offered several suggestions for boosting health data sharing, such as:

  • Allowing electronic health record vendors to charge physicians’ offices for EHR transfers;
  • Improving cloud computing efforts; and
  • Increasing the federal government’s investment in medical research.

However, some lawmakers expressed concern about potential patient privacy issues.

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) said, “Congress has been snooping and leaking any information for political gain … You take the same thing and you transfer it to medicine, how much more scary is that?” (The Hill, 6/24). 

Comments on Patient Engagement

Meanwhile, speakers at the hearing also discussed how the health care industry could help bolster patient engagement.

23andme CEO Anne Wojcicki said, “For the first time, technology and health care are coming together, and consumers want to be part of it.”

Similarly, Mark Blatt, worldwide medical director at Intel, and Cleveland Clinic CIO Martin Harris both praised the OpenNotes program, which gives patients access to physician notes about their visits.

However, Gina Gavlak, chair of the American Diabetes Association’s National Advocacy Committee, said consumers “are going to need help getting to a level where they’re going to be able to actively engage” (Dvorak, FierceHealthIT, 6/24).

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