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Washington Debrief: Senate Hearing Examines User Experience with EHRs

June 22, 2015
by Leslie Kriegstein, Interim Vice President of Public Policy
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Senate Hearing Examines User Experience with EHRs

Key Takeaway: Last week, a Senate HELP Committee hearing discussed user experiences with EHRs and the meaningful use program.

Why It Matters: Committee members heard concerns about quality reporting duplication, physician time restraints and the variability in standards implementation during the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee hearing entitled, “Achieving the Promise of Health Information Technology: What Can Providers and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Do To Improve the Electronic Health Record User Experience?” Chaired by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), a physician, the hearing was held to evaluate the claims that EHRs are a source of widespread dissatisfaction among providers.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), served as the ranking member of the Committee for the hearing, referenced President Obama’s precision medicine initiative, citing the value of health IT as an enabler of healthcare transformation. He referenced usability and interoperability as topics that warrant significant improvement before the nation was capitalize on the transformative potential of EHRs.

The Committee heard from: Boyd Vindell Washington, M.D., president of the Franciscan Medical Group and Chief Medical Information Officer of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, Baton Rouge, La; Meryl Moss, Chief Operating Officer of Coastal Medical, Providence, R.I.; and, Timothy A. Pletcher, DHA , Executive Director, Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services, Adjunct Faculty, Department of Learning Health Sciences, University of Michigan Medical School, East Lansing , Mich.

The Committee’s Chairman, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), again discussed the possibility of delaying the rulemaking process for Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use Program. While other Committee members spoke to the need to support the Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) and to bring increased transparency to vendor product offerings and pricing.

Last Tuesday’s hearing was the second in a series of bipartisan hearings with the hope of developing administrative or legislative solutions to address the failed promise of EHRs. The next hearing will focus on ownership of patient data, which will be chaired by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).

Congressional News

Prohibition on Use of Federal Funds for Health Identifier Remains Included in Appropriations Bill

Key Takeaway: The FY16 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS) appropriations bill, which was passed by a House subcommittee last week, again included language prohibiting HHS from employing a health identifier for patients.

Why It Matters: Continuing the trend of the past 16 years, the House LHHS appropriations bill, which funds the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, contained the prohibition baring HHS from using federal funds on the promulgation of a health identifier for patients.

Section 510 of the proposed bill, which was passed by the House LHHS Subcommittee last week says:

None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to promulgate or adopt any final standard under section 1173(b) of the Social Security Act providing for, or providing for the assignment of, a unique health identifier for an individual (except in an individual’s capacity as an employer or a health care provider), until legislation is enacted specifically approving the standard.

Other notable provisions include the funding of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) at roughly $60 million, approximately the same as the current funding level (about $30 million less than the President’s request). Further the legislation terminates the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) for FY 2016.

The full House Appropriations Committee will likely consider the bill on Wednesday, June 24th while the Senate LHHS subcommittee has scheduled their hearing on the funding bill for Tuesday, June 23rd.

Do you have a story that illustrates the need for a national dialogue on patient identification? Consider sharing your experience with your lawmakers using CHIME’s Congressional Advocacy Portal - a communication tool that enables CHIME members to directly email their Members of Congress in the House of Representatives and Senate in just a few short steps.

The House and Senate Committees that can remove this outdated provision are considering this legislation this week, thus please consider reaching out to your Members of Congress today.

CHIME Comments Point to Care Coordination, Telehealth as Fundamentals in Chronic Care Management

Key Takeaway: In comments submitted to a key Senate Committee, CHIME highlighted the need for policies that bolster care coordination and telehealth services in the treatment of patients with chronic conditions