Alexander: Goal is for Electronic Health Records to Become What Patients, Doctors Had Hoped For

Posted on November 30, 2018

“I hope, more than anything, we see consumers who say, ‘Thank you,  for my electronic health care records, this is amazing, it's simple.’ People say that about how easy it is to make an airline reservation.” – Sen. Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 30, 2018 – Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) this week said he hopes that implementation of the 21st Century Cures law will mean electronic health records become what patients and doctors and hospitals had hoped for would be when the technology was developed.

“I would [also like] to see doctors believe that the amount of time that they're spending on recordkeeping, and this isn't all directed toward electronic records… they believe they're spending 40 or 50 percent of their time filling out forms while they ought to be treating patients. I'd like for them to believe that that 40 or 50 percent has dropped to 20 or 30percent or 10 or 20 percent.”

Alexander made his comments at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONC) 2018 Annual Meeting, in a discussion with Adam Boehler, Senior Advisor to the Secretary, CMS Deputy Administrator and Director of the Innovation Center. 

Excerpts from his remarks are below:

Senator Alexander discussed a meeting he had with Apple: “Apple came in to see me the other day, and they're trying to make it easier to put your electronic medical records on your phone. And that's what should happen.  But the government's not going to do that.  We need to make it possible for Apple or Google or anybody who wants to try to do that… Tom Friedman in his book, his most recent book, talked about Steve Jobs and John Doerr, the venture capitalist, at a soccer game in 2007 and the issue was, would Apple make the apps. Doerr said, ‘No, don't do that, let the world make the apps.’ And of course that was an awfully smart thing for Apple to do. So that's what we want to happen with health care as well, and we tried to do that.  So those are some of the things that we try to do. But basically our whole goal with the 21st Century bill was to move cures and treatments more rapidly through the investment and regulatory process and into medicine cabinets and doctor's offices.”

During the conversation, Alexander also discussed health care costs, a top priority on his agenda: “The miracles of health care and how we get them to people and how we pay for them is exciting, and if we can think of ways to reduce the burden on doctors and providers so they can spend more of their time and money on patients… We've had a series of five hearings on reducing health care costs in our committee since June. The startling information

from the testimony that comes from the National Academy of Medicine, [and other people from] places like that, is that half our spending on health care is unnecessary. 

“I think we should be spending [time] on overall health care costs if it's even close to true that we might be spending half of what we spend unnecessarily. That's where we ought to be spending our time.  And in my discussions with Senator Murray yesterday – she's a Democrat and I'm a Republican – Senator Grassley, he's a Republican, we can talk about that, we can work on that, just as we worked with Obama and Vice [President Joe] Biden on 21st Century Cures and on the landmark's opioids legislation this year and the FDA user fees.  Our job in the Senate really is to take big issues and come to an agreement that most of us agree with because if we do, then the people will accept it and it will last a long time.”

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Lamar Alexander is the senior senator from Tennessee, and he serves as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. For his full biography, click here.