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Washington Debrief: Oversight Committee Evaluates Opportunities to Advance Health IT

March 28, 2016
by Leslie Kriegstein, Vice President of Congressional Affairs, CHIME
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Congressional Affairs

Oversight Committee Evaluates Opportunities to Advance Health IT

Key Takeaway: Congressional interest in health IT continues to grow as evidenced by last week’s hearing by the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee.

Why It Matters: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the latest committee to dig into health information technology and interoperability. Among other things, committee members cited the lack of coordination among state and federal regulators and inconsistencies in the regulatory framework as top priorities for discussion during the hearing.

The subcommittees on Information Technology and Health Care, Benefits, and Administrative Rules heard from a panel of witnesses including the administration’s top health IT official, Karen DeSalvo, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology and acting assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Committee members pointed to the likelihood that federal health privacy laws are hindering innovation and progress in health IT adoption. Lawmakers asked the witnesses how federal laws could be altered to improve consumer privacy and technology innovation.

Notably, DeSalvo asked lawmakers to grant the ONC authority to investigate instances of data blocking, per the agency’s FY17 budget request. Similarly, Jessica Rich, director of the bureau of consumer protection at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), requested her agency be given new authority to fine organizations for data security and breach notice violations.

Federal Affairs

AHIMA Launches Pledge to Remove Patient ID Ban

Key Takeaway: Last week, the chorus of pleas to advance the conversation on the need for a national patient identification solution grew with a public petition, MyHealthID, to the White House led by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

Why It Matters: The petition, MyHealthID, open for signatures through April 19, calls for lifting the “federal budget ban that prohibits the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from participating in efforts to find a patient identification solution.”

Removing legislative language prohibiting HHS from moving forward with a national solution for patient identification is a top priority for CHIME. The existence of the ban, and the gradual, but slow progress being made on Capitol Hill, was the impetus for the CHIME Healthcare Innovation Trust's National Patient ID Challenge, which launched on January 19, 2016.

AHRQ Money on the Table

Key Takeaway: The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is issuing hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money to study health IT.  

Why it Matters: “There is a need for improved approaches to health IT system design, usability, and implementation; to understand how users interact with the systems; to carefully monitor the systems' use and performance post-implementation; and to understand how to address causes of errors. In addition, many have called for the use of user-centered design, and human factors and ergonomics, sociotechnical systems theory, human-computer engineering, usability engineering, and other related frameworks and approaches to improve health IT safety,” AHRQ stated.  In describing the grants, AHRQ stated that it is “interested in funding applications that will conduct research on safe health IT practices specifically related to the design, implementation, usability, and safe use of health IT by all users, including patients. These projects would generate new evidence on safe health IT practices that could be used by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and others to inform health IT certification and other forms of policy guidance.” Certain projects, “should include personnel from health IT vendors and health care delivery organizations in the project personnel.”

Get the 411 on Becoming a Medicare Shared Savings ACO

Key Takeaway: May 2-31 is open to providers to file a notice of intent to apply to become a Medicare Shared Savings ACO.