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Washington Debrief: New Members Join HIT Policy Committee

May 11, 2015
by Leslie Krigstein, Interim Vice President of Public Policy
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Leslie Krigstein, Interim Vice President of Public Policy

Federal Affairs:

Dr. DeSalvo Nominated for New Post at HHS; New Members Join HIT Policy Committee

Key Takeaway: Karen DeSalvo, M.D., the National Coordinator for Health IT, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Health, a position she has held as acting since last October.  The Health IT Policy Committee also welcomes three new appointees.

Why it Matters: The nomination of Dr. DeSalvo will cause her to leave her post at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) if she is confirmed by the Senate. While this will leave a void at the top of ONC, a new national coordinator is expected to be announced quickly, and having an experienced health IT advocate in the senior levels of HHS should bode well for the industry as a whole.

Last week, the White House publicly announced DeSalvo as their nomination for Assistant Secretary for Health. The position would oversee a substantial portion of HHS offices and programs and the move represents a new opportunity for an experienced health IT advocate to impact agency-wide policy while giving efforts to modernize healthcare delivery much-needed senior-level visibility. DeSalvo will remain National Coordinator until the Senate takes up her confirmation.

Also announced last week are new members of the Health IT Policy Committee. U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro named three new members to the Health IT Policy Committee, including Kathleen Blake, M.D., vice president for performance improvement at the American Medical Association; Donna Cryer, founder and president of the Global Liver Institute in Washington, D.C.; and Brent Snyder, chief information officer at Orlando, FL-based Adventist Health System. Dr. Blake will fill the position of an expert in health care quality measurement and reporting, Cryer the position of an advocate for patients or consumers, and Snyder the position representing health care providers. With new faces entering the policymaking process at the HIT Policy Committee, comes new opportunities to garner insights from experts who have lived through the first 5 years of HITECH as implementers.

Congressional Affairs:

Senators Reiterate Interest in Reforming EHRs in Committee Hearing

Key Takeaway: Senate HELP Committee members question DeSalvo on reforms necessary to capitalize on federal investments in electronic health records (EHRs) during a Congressional hearing last week.

Why It Matters: Interest in addressing the ongoing usability and value concerns of providers relative to their EHRs has become a top priority for the leadership of an important Senate Committee.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee invited DeSalvo to discuss how EHRs will play a role in precision medicine at a Committee hearing last week. DeSalvo’s remarks were focused on gaining the value promised by the impressive federal investment in EHRs and the role EHRs play in improving patient care.

A bipartisan chorus of Committee members called on ONC to join in the Committee’s effort to identify five or six things that can be done to improve provider satisfaction with EHRs and to create policies that encourage those not yet participating in the Meaningful Use Program to join the ranks.

The Committee’s Chairman, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), noted his interest in getting to know the National Coordinator well as the Committee progresses with its “Innovation Initiative.” Chairman Alexander noted that he hopes to spend the remainder of the 2015 congressional calendar working toward legislation that the Senate could consider in early 2016.

Similar efforts are underway in the House with an expedited legislative timeline. The House 21st Century Cures Initiative is likely to reveal legislation this week which could include language on interoperability and telemedicine as smaller provisions of a much larger healthcare innovation package. Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-) has previously indicated his desire to have the House consider the Cures legislation before the end of the summer, as soon as the end of May. CHIME submitted comments of an early draft of the legislation last week, providing policy recommendations on interoperability through positive patient identification, clear standards and a robust certification program

House Bill Would Prohibit Implementation of ICD-10

Key Takeaway: The bill introduced in late April would prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from requiring the medical community to comply with ICD-10 coding indefinitely.

Why It Matters: Despite the intentions of Congressional leaders on key healthcare-focused Committees in the House and Senate to move forward with ICD-10, critics of the Oct. 1, 2015 deadline remain vocal on Capitol Hill.