Congress Mulls Interoperability, Health Data Transparency Bills

March 10, 2015 in News

Rep. Mike Burgess (R-Texas) is circulating a draft bill that outlines a blueprint for achieving interoperability of electronic health records by 2018, Government Health IT reports (Government Health IT, 3/10).

Interoperability Bill Details

The draft bill would create a congressionally appointed 12-member advisory committee to replace the current federal advisory committees. The new board would develop a standard for interoperability that EHR systems must meet by 2018 to gain certification and avoid penalties.

According to Politico‘s “Morning eHealth,” the draft bill defines interoperability as the capability to access patient data from one location “without the need for multiple interfaces.” The draft bill would prohibit EHR vendors from blocking competitors’ interfaces.

By July 2016, the committee also would have to recommend standards for measuring interoperability.

Burgess’ office is taking comment on the draft bill through March 13.

Dan Haley, vice president of government affairs at athenahealth, said, “Establishing criteria and private sector-based mechanisms for identifying and measuring actual interoperation is, in our view, the best way for the government to achieve the desired outcome — systemic, sustainable interoperation in health care,” adding that the vendor was “pleased that the draft stays away from establishing technical mandates, which would only serve to freeze health care in the status quo” (Gold et al., “Morning eHealth,” Politico, 3/9).

Cerner also said that the company supports “Congress’ efforts to encourage mechanisms to define, measure and encourage dialogue about interoperability, and to remove barriers by penalizing and reporting bad actors.”

However, David Kibbe, CEO of DirectTrust, criticized the draft bill for “[f]ocusing all the attention on the technical aspects of interoperability, and not at all on the clinical and business incentives, the implementation issues, the workflows and the costs to providers of achieving full interoperability.”

In addition, Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, said the draft bill’s proposal to create a new advisory committee “would create a lot of churn and political jockeying with little benefit.” He added that the move “could contribute to the growing ‘[meaningful use] malaise’ in the industry if it’s seen as just moving around the deck chairs” (Gold et al., “Morning eHealth,” Politico, 3/10).

Sens. Introduce Bill To Increase Medicare, Medicaid Claims Transparency

Meanwhile, Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) on Monday reintroduced legislation (S 1758) that would increase access to Medicare and Medicaid claims data, Government Health IT reports.

The legislation — called the Quality Data, Quality Healthcare Act — would revamp the Qualified Entity program to increase transparency. Specifically, the reintroduced legislation would:

  • Ease restrictions on which organizations can access Medicare data within the program; and
  • Allow organizations that receive Medicare data to share for a fee the information with qualified subscribers to help make better informed decisions and conduct analyses to reduce costs and improve quality (Government Health IT, 3/10).
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