Alexander, Murray Release Bipartisan Senate Health Committee Staff Draft of Bill to Help Improve Health

Senate health committee seeks expert feedback to revise and improve upon draft legislation to help achieve interoperability

Posted on January 20, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 20 – To inform the committee’s final legislation, Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today released for feedback a staff discussion draft of the committee’s bipartisan legislation to improve health information technology, including electronic health records.

The draft legislation released today 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 bipartisan hearings in the committee.

Alexander said: “Health information moving seamlessly among doctors and hospitals is vital for the future of medicine and essential to improving patient care. The committee has been working for months on legislation to help improve electronic health records, and it involves especially technical work to get this right, which is why our committee looks forward to feedback on today’s draft from doctors, hospitals, health IT developers, and other experts in this area of health care.”                                                                                           
Murray said: “I’m pleased that we were able to make bipartisan progress toward strengthening our nation’s health IT infrastructure so that patients, families, and providers have better tools to drive medical decisionmaking and treatment. This draft legislation is an important step forward, and I look forward to hearing feedback from doctors, patients, health IT developers, and experts from Washington state and across the country.”  

Senate health committee members seek feedback on the draft by Jan. 29 and ask that all comments be submitted to HealthIT@help.senate.gov.

Click HERE to access the draft legislation.

Below is a summary of the draft legislation, which is also linked HERE:

Senate Health Committee Staff Draft: Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Health Information Technology for Patients and Families

1)      Assisting Doctors and Hospitals in Improving Quality of Care for Patients

a.      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.

b.      Allows and encourages health professionals to practice at the top of their license, allowing non-physician members of the care team, such as nurses, to document on behalf of physicians. 

c.      Encourages the certification of health information technology (HIT) for specific specialty providers, like pediatricians, where more specialized technology is needed.

2)      Transparent Ratings on Usability and Security to Transform Information Technology (TRUST IT)

a.      Establishes an unbiased rating system for HIT products to help providers better choose HIT products.

b.      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

a.      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.

4)      Interoperability

a.      Convenes existing data sharing networks to develop a model framework and common agreement for the secure exchange of health information across existing networks to help foster a “network of networks.”

b.      Creates a digital provider directory to both facilitate exchange and allow users to verify the correct recipient.

c.      Requires that HHS give deference to standards developed in the private sector.

d.      Combines the HIT Policy Committee and HIT Standards Committee into the HIT Advisory Committee.

e.      Creates a process for prioritizing the adoption of standards to focus on the most pressing problems faced by the health care community.

f.       Establishes an initial set of common data elements, such as a standard format for entering date of birth, to facilitate interoperability and streamline quality reporting.

5)      Leveraging Health Information Technology to Improve Patient Care

a.      Requires that certified HIT transmit and receive data from certified physician registries and that registries be certified to transmit and receive from certified HIT.

b.      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

a.      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, which may update automatically.

b.      Encourages the use of Health Information Exchanges to promote patient access by educating providers and clarifying misunderstandings.

c.      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)      Encouraging Trust Relationships for Certified Electronic Health Records (EHR)

a.      Supports the secure exchange of electronic health information by certifying that one EHR product is capable of trusted exchange with multiple other EHR products.

8)      GAO Study on Patient Matching

a.      Directs the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study to review methods for securely matching patient records to the correct patient. 

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For access to this release and the senator’s other statements, click here.

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